Update on MLSD funding

While tweaks to the proposed budget for the State of Ohio that could negatively impact the Manchester Local School District have been made, the changes aren’t as significant as many would like to see.

The provision within the budget that allows the elimination of tangible personal property taxes to electrical plants was retained within the Senate’s version of the budget. The MLSD received $5.3 million in 2013 from Dayton Power and Light plants in the area — or about 42 percent of their total budget.

Despite that, an amendment was added that would allow for replacement payments to extend to future new investment, including rate increases from future levies.

Even though the amendment was added, the Ohio School Board Association will ask Ohio Gov. John Kasich to veto the budget in order to allow for more discussion about this provision.

“In any case, we believe the insertion of this major policy change into a budget bill at the 11th hour with no opportunity for public testimony is inappropriate,” an email from the OSBA read. “Because time is so short for weighing in with the governor on requests for gubernatorial vetoes, we will submit a request to the governor to veto this provision and we urge you to do the same.”

State Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Miami Township, voted in favor of the Senate’s version of the budget on June 18 before it was unanimously rejected by the House of Representatives and brought before a joint committee. Uecker was unable to be reached for comment before this story went to print.

Director of legislative services for the OSBA, Damon Asbury, told The People’s Defender that additional discussion should be allowed on this issue.

“We think regardless of the merits of the idea, it’s so complex that it requires additional conversation,” Asbury said. “It’s supposed to be a democratic process with an opportunity for everyone to get their two cents in. Instead, we’ll be working out the kinks and the consequences afterwards.”

Debate on the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon about the budget addressed the elimination of tangible property taxes for electrical companies on numerous occasions. Most seemed to be in support of the provision, even those who were planning to reject the proposed budget, like Senator Tom Sawyer, D-Akron.

“Most of us could agree with most of what is in this budget,” Sawyer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I like the hold harmless provisions included for TPP losses. This is a good thing. But we still have yet to establish a bipartisan process that determines what it costs to educate our children and fund it.”

Manchester Board Vice-President Richard Foster said that while the news may not seem as grim as it did a few days ago, the news still isn’t what the district was hoping for.

“It may not be as painful as what was proposed,” Foster said. “The portion of the legislation isn’t going to be totally removed. Senator Uecker said there’s too much support for it in the Senate. It’s not very encouraging.”

Foster said that while his district may be “held harmless” and receiving alternative funding designed to make up for the lost tangible personal property tax revenue, he remains unsure of the future.

“This is significant news for Manchester,” Foster said. “What is the downstream effect here? How vulnerable are we in the future? If that funding comes from a different pot how vulnerable is that pot two years from now? And then there’s the possibility of of power company customers seeing an increase in their bills. This changes a lot more than [school funding].”