Thursday, December 13th, 2007
More local fiscal responsibility means less money from state
By William Kincaid
FORT RECOVERY - The amount of state funding offered this year to Fort Recovery Local Schools to pursue a possible renovation or construction project was not equitable, according to Superintendent David Riel.
While attending a meeting at the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) office in Columbus on Friday, Riel said he and Treasurer Lori Koch were told by OSFC Executive Director Michael Shoemaker that the offer to Fort Recovery was not fair and he would look into making changes.
School officials in February were offered $1.3 million by OSFC for a possible renovation/construction project at the high school. Any project with state money has to follow state guidelines. The district was told the state's offer would equate to 38 percent of the total project with taxpayers having to pick up 62 percent through a tax levy.
Riel objects to the 62 percent that taxpayers would have to fund.
He says the school's lack of debt, essentially the fact that the school system has been fiscally responsible, disqualifies them from getting more state money.
Fort Recovery is ranked 99 out of 612 Ohio schools in district wealth based on its adjusted valuation per pupil or how much money is allocated to each student from district property tax. Koch said the adjusted valuation is calculated by dividing the total amount of property tax generated by the number of students.
Riel said based on the district's equity, Fort Recovery taxpayers should have had to pick up only 17 percent of the total cost of a possible renovation or construction project. But because the school system is in a unique position of not having much debt, Riel said the state funding amount offered to the school was significantly less. Therefore, taxpayers would have to pay more.
Board members earlier this year voted to defer any OSFC funding for another year. The school, according to school officials, should be on the funding list again in 2008.
Riel said Shoemaker, who became executive director in February 2007, agreed that the debt requirement is not fair and stated he would try and change it. Although, Shoemaker was not sure whether such a change would have to be made through the Ohio legislature or simply within the OSFC, Riel said.
Riel said Shoemaker would contact Fort Recovery in a few weeks with news regarding what must be done to change the debt requirement.
"We left there very encouraged about working with the OSFC," Riel said.
During the last decade, OSFC has spent $5 billion on constructing new schools and plans to spend an additional $4.1 billion on new schools in the next three years, due to a ruling by Gov. Ted Strickland.
"They're having a hard time spending all the money," Riel said.
In 2007, Fort Recovery completed a series of five community engagement meetings, where a majority of those participating initially indicated they neither wanted to build a new high school on the existing elementary/middle school grounds nor accept any OSFC funding, as it would come with too many strings attached and a new tax levy.