Kenston BOE Questions Impact of Ohio House Bill 290
October 21, 2021 by Samuel Hummer

Members of the Kenston Schools Board of Education expressed concerns about Ohio House Bill 290, better known to state lawmakers and educators as the “backpack bill,” during their regular board meeting Oct. 18.

Members of the Kenston Schools Board of Education expressed concerns about Ohio House Bill 290, better known to state lawmakers and educators as the “backpack bill,” during their regular board meeting Oct. 18.

The bill would establish a state-wide, universal voucher program, through which all students in the state of Ohio would be eligible for $5,500 or $7,500 to be deposited into an educational savings account for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks and allowable uses, said board member Neysa Gaskins.

“The impacts of legislation on the future of the Fair School Funding Plan is unknown, but it will no doubt be detrimental for future phasing and funding for public schools. The cost of the legislation being analyzed currently is several billion dollars annually to pay upon the student participation for this program,” she said.

According to www.backpackbill.com, a website funded by the Ohio Christian Education Network, the bill is “innovative education reform that ensures Ohio funds students, not bureaucracy.” The OCEN site says the bill would ensure all Ohio students are eligible for a taxpayer-funded scholarship that goes wherever they go, if they opt into the program.

If the bill passes, any student in Ohio would be eligible for an educational voucher worth up to $5,500 for students in grades kindergarten through eighth and $7,500 for students in grades ninth through 12th.

However, because the proposed vouchers would be taxpayer-funded, a significant amount of money would be taken out of Kenston Schools, said Gaskin and board President Beth Krause.

In other financial business, Kenston Schools Treasurer Paul Pestello said the district’s five-year forecast is pretty much where the district thought it would be three months into the fiscal year.

The district’s five-year forecast, which the board approved in September, reflected a declining ending cash balance, he said.

“There needs to be a plan developed by the superintendent and treasurer with the BOE for remedying that situation, which could include operating levies, reductions in all sorts of different things, which is a big part of a ‘what if” situation that I provided,” Pestello said.

However, he assured board and audience members Kenston’s finances are alright for the time being. The district, he said, is currently just under $40,000 below its plan.

The expectation for the ending cash position at the end of September, the first month of Kenston’s fiscal year, was $17,644,746, while the district’s actual cash balance is $17,606,242, he said.

“So there is a difference of $38,504,” Pestello said. “It’s a negative difference. We do not like negative differences. But as you recall in the five-year forecast, in the assumptions, I had indicated that we are going to be far less conservative this year than in the past and this is certainly the result of that.”

Pestello said due to some residents not being able to pay their property taxes on time this year, the Geauga County Auditor’s Office has held onto some payments that were made late as they are considered delinquent.

“Our tax collection is about $250,000 below what we thought it would be. But, after conferring with the county auditor, I learned that some people paid their taxes after the deadline, which makes them delinquent,” he said. “If they arrived when they were supposed to, we would be $100,000 over plan. We will see that money in January and hopefully with those collections there, we will also be higher with that additional revenue, so we are on pace to be exactly where we should be.”