In depth: Districts reach for budget axe

Cincinnati Enquirer - May 3, 2013

Districts prune and chop spending

The Enquirer’s Jessica Brown writes that “springtime has lately represented one thing: Budget cuts.”

It’s the time of year when superintendents and treasurers get out their budget axes and start figuring out how how to prune spending without decimating the education they provide.

She notes that the Cincinnati district has projected a $46 million shortfall for the coming school year. In addition to interviews with district officials in the Cincinnati area, she cites the recent Policy Matters survey of school about cuts made to balance budgets at the district level.

The number of districts reporting cuts continues to grow, according to a survey released this week by Policy Matters Ohio.

In 2011-12, almost 64 percent of districts surveyed statewide reported cuts. This year that number rose to 70 percent. Next year, 90.5 percent of districts estimate they’ll have to make cuts, according to the survey. Locally, 74 percent of districts that were surveyed expect to make cuts next year.

“It’s across the board,” said Piet van Lier, spokesman for Policy Matters Ohio about the cuts. “Those kind of changes can affect kids for the worse.”

Many are running out of places to cut.

Brown writes that factors causing the ongoing money problems include decreased state funding, which hasn’t kept pace with inflation; the phase-out of the tangible personal property tax on business inventory and equipment; automatic cuts to federal funding (sequestration), and; rising expenses, particularly for special education and transportation.

Van Lier, of the Policy Matters group, said tax cuts may sound like a good idea, but policy makers should consider the impact on education.

“As we look at the upcoming budget and we’re looking at more tax cuts, we need to ask, do we continue cutting taxes or do we do what’s best for education?” he said. “These are decisions our policy makers have made and they have a real impact.

“Education is an important service,” he said. “It’s an important need at the local level and in the state as a whole to keep the economy going. Ohioans need to make it clear what’s important and not just think about the short term.”

In depth: Districts reach for budget axe

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