Treasurer presents five-year forecast, board rejects ‘backpack bill’

by Laura Bednar

May 23 board of education meeting

Nordonia Hills schools Treasurer Matthew Brown outlined his five-year forecast for fiscal years 2022-26 to the board of education.

He divided the district’s revenue into four categories: property taxes (70.8%), state aid and reimbursements (15.2%), other revenues (13.7%) and other financing sources (.12%).

Residential and commercial real estate are the largest components of the property tax categories. Brown projected a valuation growth of $43.7 million over the next five years and new construction growth of $16.6 million. The projection is 1% lower than the estimate in the November forecast.

Brown said the new state funding model under House Bill 110 funds students based on where they are educated, not where they live.

“Historically, the district would get funds for students that attend other entities … and then the district would pay those out to those respective entities,’’ he said. “Because of the change, that no longer happens, so our revenues are going to go down on the state input but so are our expenditures.’’

Other revenues include tax increment financing, kindergarten and out of district tuition and interest earnings. The projection for other revenues is 101.78% higher than the fall forecast due to the district’s $15 million tax settlement with MGM Northfield Park casino.

House Bill 126 will negatively affect the district, according to Brown, as it limits the district’s ability to protect and challenge property tax valuations.

District expenditures are broken down into salaries and wages (52.17%), fringe benefits (19.67%), purchased services (17.47%), and non-personnel expenditures (10.69%).

Salaries and wages include payment for teachers, non-bargaining staff and administrators. The projection for this category is .85% higher than the fall forecast because 70 teachers received educational adjustments totaling $223,000, according to Brown. This adjustment will also affect benefits, as Brown projects a 1.59% higher estimate than the fall.

Purchased services such as transportation, building and grounds maintenance, nursing and utilities will remain in the $9 million range through 2026.

Total annual revenue is projected to be between $53 million and $55 million from 2023-26. During these years, the district is expected to have a positive cash balance but deficit spending. To make the money last longer, Brown suggested using funds from the MGM settlement, analyzing expenditures for staffing and school operation and considering an operating levy.

“Backpack bill’’ rejected

The board voted to join the coalition of dozens of school districts that are suing Ohio over House Bill 290, known as the “backpack bill.”

“This legislation creates a Backpack Scholarship Account in the form of an educational savings account managed by the Ohio treasurer of state for eligible students,” according to “The Backpack Scholarship will be funded by the Ohio Department of Education in the amounts of $5,000 for K-8 and $7,500 for 9-12.”

Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark said the legislation would allow any student in the state to attend private school with tuition paid for by a public school district.

Clark said he speculated that the district has close to 300 kids who attend private school, and if the bill passes Nordonia will lose $2 million a year to fund private schools.
Board member Matthew Kearney said he was concerned about litigation costs in a case that could last 3-4 years. He added that the state has not yet responded to the litigation.

“We could join in at a later date once answers are filed,” said Kearney.

“I want this to go through. I think stuff like this needs to be squashed at the state level,” said board member Chad Lahrmer.

Board member Jason Tidmore said public schools are held to a state mandated testing system but some private schools are not but would be funded at a greater rate. “We would be opening up a way to drain us financially,” he said.

Only Kearney voted against the resolution.

District designation

The board approved filing paperwork with the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Taxation to ensure the district is eligible to be a “special needs district.”

Brown said this is the first step in adding a levy to the November ballot.

According to the legislation, becoming special needs allows the district to have debt exceeding 9% of its tax valuation. This designation would expand the district’s debt capacity for the construction of three new school buildings as discussed in previous meetings.

Tidmore said whether the buildings are renovated or rebuilt, the designation equips the district to do something.

Kearney said he was concerned about inflation and the cost of building materials if the district were to move forward with construction.

Said Clark, “I fear that if we wait too long for a bond issue, then it will be time to have that operating levy.” He added that passing something in November doesn’t mean the district will pay inflated prices when they purchase materials.


Ashley Turner, a history teacher at Garfield Heights High School, was approved as the new Nordonia Middle School associate principal, effective Aug. 1. ∞