Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Lakota's budget gets big boost

Removal of funding cap gives district extra $6.5M

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — A levy approved last November by voters in the Lakota Local Schools will last at least a year longer than planned because of legislative action to remove a funding cap that restricted the increase in state aid to some Ohio school districts.

        In presenting the 2001-02 budget, Lakota Treasurer Alan Hutchinson said removal of the cap a year earlier than anticipated will result in the district receiving about $6.5 million in state aid it had not anticipated. That money will enable the district to stretch last November's levy to the end of the 2005-06 school year — or longer.

        The 6.74-mill combination levy voters approved included 4.9 mills for operations, or about $8.3 million annually. Another 1.84 mills were set aside for construction of two schools and capital improvement projects.

        “We are holding that money in reserve,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “Hopefully, it will allow us to go even longer than an extra year.”

        For the past three years, revenue in this southeastern Butler County district has been restricted by a cap that limited how much state aid could increase from one year to the next. The cap hurt fast-growing districts like Lakota. Had the cap not been in place, the district would have received about $13 million more than it did over the past three years, Mr. Hutchinson said.

        Next year's $100.4 million budget is $9.1 million — or about 10 percent — higher than this year's budget, Mr. Hutchinson said. The largest chunk, 87.1 percent, will be used to pay salaries and benefits. Each of those areas rose 11 to 17 percent over last year, because of increases in teacher salaries and the cost of medical benefits and Medicare costs. Health insurance rose 25 percent, Mr. Hutchinson said.

        “Over the last year to 18 months we've really been cutting back,” said Joan Powell, president of the Lakota Board of Education. “I hope we can maintain our programs and encourage our employees to have that frugal mentality and give them what they need (to teach).”

        The district is seeing some increase in its revenue from businesses that began operations in the past few years and are now paying taxes. As tax incentive agreements go into effect, the schools also receive additional money, Mr. Hutchinson said.


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