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Cincinnati Public Schools puts budget on hold without knowing how much state funding to expect

a stack of books
Kimberly Farmer

Cincinnati Public Schools officials say they can't draft the district's 2023-2024 fiscal year budget until lawmakers at the statehouse finalize the next two-year state budget.

The deadline to sign a state new budget into law is June 30, but lawmakers may miss that cutoff date as they continue to iron out a plan.

In the meantime, CPS officials say the district's budget in limbo because they don't know how much state funding to expect; it was more than $173 million for the current school year, according to the latest state report card.

Treasurer Jennifer Wagner says it's tough to crunch the numbers when the two budget versions (one in the Ohio House and another in the Senate) would bring a significantly different amount of money to the district.

"CPS would receive an additional $20 million in revenue [in the House version]. The Senate version, however has a huge difference. They changed the wealth index calculation that made the district much wealthier, and so we'll only receive $6 million." Wagner said. "That would be a loss of $14 million that we were counting on to help pay for [wage increases]."

As the district waits for the state to sort out the details, the school board passed a temporary appropriations plan Monday night. The resolution allows the district to operate until for the next 90 days.

RELATED: 'It doesn't make sense': CPS staff say superintendent's proposed budget focuses on the wrong areas

Wagner says she anticipates having a draft of the general fund budget ready to present by July 17, but how much time she'll have to work on it still remains unknown.

Board President Ben Lindy says what's happening in Columbus has made an already difficult job even harder.

"The number of things the superintendent and the treasurer
have to juggle to get this right is really spectacular," Lindy told fellow board members. "It's already increasingly complicated and add to the fact that we don't even know what the state number is because they haven't finished their conference committee — it's just wild."

The first draft of the CPS budget cut $48 million compared to the 2022-23 school year.

Wagner expects the final CPS budget to be completed by August. The deadline for the district is September 30.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.