Local schools question the impact of casino revenue

(FOX19) - One local school district worries the perception of casino revenues could negatively impact long term community support for increased school funding.

Ohio schools will get nearly $38 million from taxes levied against the casinos in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo in an upcoming installment of funds.

The money will be distributed on a per-pupil basis, biannually, to more than 1000 school districts and charter schools. More money will come when Cincinnati's casino opens in March.

The largest payment in Hamilton County goes to Cincinnati Public Schools which will receive $642,000. In Warren County, Mason Schools rake in the most at more than $223,000. West Clermont Schools get more than $166,000. Finally, in Butler County Lakota schools will receive nearly $352,000.

While more than $350,000 dollars sounds like a lot of money, to help put it into perspective the district's electricity bill alone is $1.9 million annually.

"It's becoming much more difficult to get items for your classroom," Lakota Plains Junior School math teacher Aaron Nunley told FOX19. "Certainly the district is trying to do everything it can to provide what it can for students but there's only so much money to go around."

Nunley crunched the numbers and found the math worked out to about 20 dollars per student from this first installment of casino revenue. He says that will not buy much these days unless you figure out how to multiply its impact.

"It really isn't that much money, it's half of a text book but if you can take that and leverage it into something larger than it is that's when you begin to do things," he argued.

Nunley says support from the school's PTO has been critical in the current money-strapped climate. He believe options like grants can be great tools for leveraging available funds.

"It's a lot of money. It's great for schools that they'll have it," Lakota's district spokesperson Randy Oppenheimer said, going on to put it in context. "In a district the size of Lakota it's less than a day's operating expenses."

The district is worried the revenue will erase the community's concern for the schools' money woes.

"The fear is that the perception will be this solves all the school's financial problems and it clearly does not," Oppenheimer said.

If that perception can spread in the community, they worry it could spread in Columbus as well.

"Our other fear is that when the state funding for schools is finalized over the next few months a similar amount of money will disappear out of what you were going to get from the state," Oppenheimer said. "You'll end up right back where you started and there won't be nearly as much attention to that as there is to this money coming."

While districts are thankful to get any money they can, the casino revenue did not come a surprise and many districts had already included the money in their budgets.

In Lakota Local Schools, Oppenheimer says they have been conservative in their estimations of just how much money would come in. In the end, he says they got about ten thousand dollars more than they had anticipated.

The next distribution of casino revenue will come in August.

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