PIQUA — Piqua Board of Education treasurer Jeremie Hittle presented the district’s five-year budget forecast during the board’s regular meeting on Thursday.
Hittle said Ohio’s new two-year state operating budget, which was approved this summer, will have a major impact on the district’s funding and financial security.
“Many times, you all hear me say, ‘barring any unforeseen circumstances,’ and unfortunately this time we have a few unforeseen circumstances,” Hittle said. “One thing that we’ve discussed already is that we have frozen state funding.”
The only new dollars to be received from the state, Hittle said, will be specifically earmarked for “student wellness and success,” or “wraparound services,” which includes things like mental health services, mentoring programs, family engagement, and services for homeless.
“As much as (these services) are needed, we don’t spend this much money on wellness funds,” he said. “We don’t have this many programs in place and we can’t put new programs in place just because we have the money, because (the state) is going to pull it in two years.”
Another issue is that of health insurance. After five years of zero percent increases, Hittle said, the district initially received a 70.2 percent increase in health insurance this year.
After negotiations, creating new plan options, making plan design and funding changes, and adjustments to board contributions, the district was able to keep health insurance at 27.9 percent for now. However, Hittle said increases of 12 to 13 percent per year are expected.
“That’s a big change, a big shift, and it’s a lot of money when the board is picking up 85 percent of the bill,” he said.
The third critical change affecting the district’s funding, along with districts throughout the state, is the change in Ohio’s private school voucher system.
The Educational Choice Scholarship Program (EdChoice) provides students from under-performing public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools by issuing scholarships, or vouchers, to pay school tuition. A change this year in what qualifies a school as “under-performing,” based on state report card grades, has nearly doubled the number of EdChoice schools in Ohio.
The Piqua City School District went from having one EdChoice school — Washington Primary — to having three — Piqua High School, Washington Primary, and Springcreek Primary.
Students meeting low-income requirements are eligible to apply each year for a voucher. Vouchers total $4,600 per year for elementary students and $6,000 per year for high school students.
While this change in law will open up more opportunities for students who would have otherwise been unable to attend private schools, it leaves public education lacking. In Ohio, for most voucher programs, including EdChoice, the money is deducted from state aid that would have gone to a public school.
“Our district is now going to have to fund private education for certain buildings in our district, and by doing so, you’re involving public funds to now pay for private education, which to me is completely unconstitutional,” Hittle said. “Private education is a choice and shouldn’t be funded by public dollars.”
Hittle noted that the district has completed 12 years without deficit spending and he intends it to stay that way as long as possible without affecting the students’ educations.
“This year, things are manageable,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to balance the budget next year, maybe, but going forward after that, we’re going to have to see what happens. We have to get through two years to see what the next biennium budget looks like.”
The board approved the following donations:
• Park Bank to Green Out $500
• Park Bank to Blue Out $1,000
• French Oil to Regional Science Olympiad $500
• Jackson Tube to Green Out $500
• Friends of the Piqua Library to PHS Show Choir $400
• Pioneer Electric to Regional Science Olympiad $100
• Hartzell Propeller to Regional Science Olympiad $500
• Kiwanis Club (Concessions) to PHS Key Club $1,697.90
• Meyer Restoration to Green Out $100.00
Board member Frank Patrizio read aloud a proclamation, which the board approved, honoring Piqua alumna Elinor May Gattshall.
Gattshall attended the former Spring Street School, graduated from Piqua High School in 1929, and later returned to the district as a teacher at Spring Street, North Street, Bennett Junior High, and Wilder Junior High schools.
Gattshall passed away in September of this year, at the age of 108.
“Therefore, the Piqua City School District honors Elinor Gattshall and celebrates her 108 years of life by recognizing her life, spirit, and joy, this day, Nov. 21, 2019,” the proclamation states.
In other business, the board approved supplemental resignations from mentor teachers Kurt Albers and Annette Bollheimer, and a list of instructors and substitutes, game workers and volunteers for the 2019-2020 school year.
Prior to adjournment, the board entered into executive session for the purpose of “appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of employee, student and/or school official.”
The next BOE meeting will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m.
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