Talawanda School Board delays spending decisions, fears wavering state funding

By Devin Ankeney

The Talawanda School Board made no new decisions on funding or spending for 2024 during its June meeting, approving again the same temporary appropriations that were voted on last meeting.

The re-approval was necessary because of a computer glitch, officials said. The temporary appropriations do not fully address necessary spending changes for next year following the defeat of a levy by voters in November. 

Board member Kathleen Knight-Abowitz said the board is waiting to learn how much money the district might receive in state funding next year.  The Ohio Senate passed its version of House Bill 33, a biennial budget measure, earlier June 15. That bill included decreased funding for public schools while providing for more private school funding via vouchers. She said the bill is unlikely to become law as now written, however. 

Another factor may be increased revenue from property taxes as a result of a triannual reappraisal by the Butler County Auditor. 

“We need to not count our chickens before they hatch,” board member Rebecca Howard said. 

Board members agreed to wait until they know the amount of money the district will receive from the state before considering a new tax levy or cuts or additions to existing programs. 

In March, the district’s financial forecast prompted it to reduce school busing, eliminating transportation for most high school students and requiring children who live within two miles of a school to walk. 

Knight-Abowitz said the battle over school funding in the statehouse has disrupted the district’s plans for its budget and made it more difficult for the district to improve.

The bill that has passed the Ohio Senate “is less generous to public school districts,” she said. If it becomes law, it will increase the local tax burden to accommodate for the losses, she said.

Because they don’t know how much money they will need, board members said it would be irresponsible to increase expenditures or ask for another tax levy.

“I’m not trusting that the windfall is going to come,” board member David Bothast said.

The district engaged its crisis plan last month, after a middle school student died by suicide. School psychologists and the law enforcement officers assigned to schools were deployed to the middle school to talk with people who sought support.

“I was incredibly impressed by the smoothness of this plan,” Howard said.

The board also asked Superintendent Edward Theroux to investigate creating a position for a law enforcement officer to be shared between Bogan and Marshall elementary schools. This year, the Butler County Sheriff’s Department only sent an officer to Bogan for the first half of the school year, despite a yearlong contract, Theroux said. 

The board also voted to sell a 2002 bus that is used only in rare circumstances.

“[It] no longer makes financial sense to maintain,” treasurer Shaunna Tafelski said. “I’m hoping to get two thousand [dollars] out of it.”