The news out of Columbus couldn’t get much worse for the Vandalia-Butler City Schools or the City of Vandalia in Ohio’s new budget. Of course, I’m not sure why anyone would expect anything different from Governor Kasich or his buddies in the General Assembly.
The legislature has been gutting Local Government Funds (LGF) for the past several years, and this new budget continues that trend by “redirecting” $39 million of LGF funding to townships, villages, and police training – but not to the cities. The City of Vandalia alone will lose $150,000 in revenue over the next two years.
That cut comes on top of previous years’ revenue losses as well as the unknown impact of Rep. Mike Henne’s pet project, House Bill 5, which reflected none of the municipalities’ concerns about lost funding when passed.
Then, with one swipe of the pen, over $500,000 in funding for the Vandalia-Butler Schools evaporated when the Governor used a line-item veto to eliminate a funding guarantee that would freeze Tangible Personal Property Tax reimbursements for two years.
While that guarantee was left in place for 2016, the veto means so-called “wealthy” districts such as Vandalia-Butler get nothing in 2017.
If its any consolation, Kettering Schools will lose more – almost $845,000 – but no district in Montgomery County saw a bigger percentage cut than Vandalia-Butler. In fact, of 16 districts in the county, only five saw a reduction of any kind, and only three saw reductions of greater than one percent.
Meanwhile, that “impoverished” district in Oakwood will see its state funding rise over five percent during the biennium.
The Governor defended the veto by saying districts like Vandalia-Butler have the “capacity” to produce more local revenue. In other words, the Governor doesn’t think you are paying enough local taxes to support your schools.
In the mean time, he will run around the country campaigning for President in the coming months, bragging that he cut your income taxes (by a few dollars a year) and balanced the state’s budget while adding over a billion dollars to the state’s rainy day fund.
What he won’t say is that he cut your local school funding because, in his opinion, you aren’t paying enough in property taxes.
I realize I have addressed this issue repeatedly in this space over the past 3+ years, but it bears repeating. That the Vandalia-Butler School District is considered a “wealthy” district in any formula or calculation is simply absurd. It is such a denial of logic and common sense that one has to wonder if it is willfully and intentionally ignorant.
Certainly, it is not a secret that Ohio’s system of funding schools is absurd on its face. No less than the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled the funding system unconstitutional on multiple occasions. Of course, the Court puts no teeth in their rulings so the General Assembly gets to sit on its hands, tinker here and there, and pontificate about how bad school funding is while doing nothing.
That is, except when lawmakers are passing laws that public schools must abide by while exempting their charter school friends. Or putting more funding into charter schools while the allegations of fraud and abuse from every corner of the state mount.
While it can never be proved, I suspect that the legislators who are acting surprised by the Governor’s veto were most likely in on it the whole time. That’s the oldest political game in the book and creates plausible deniability when legislators have to face the voters.
Senator Peggy Lehner and Representative Henne, who both voted for the budget, are up for re-election next year, and they should be held to account for the actions of the General Assembly.
Governor Kasich will likely announce his candidacy for the Presidency in the coming weeks. I’ve heard more than one local official, including members of his own party, say the best thing for Ohio would be for him to win and leave the state.
They didn’t mean it as a compliment.Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.