Casino revenue not what school district hoped

EAST LIVERPOOL – Just like lottery income, revenue from the state’s four new casinos hasn’t been the panacea school districts hoped it might be.

That was the message shared Monday with the city school board by Treasurer Todd Puster in a report about casino revenue received by the district.

Payments from casino proceeds are required to be paid to school districts in January and August, and Puster reported the district had received a total of $158,088 since January of 2013, with the most recent payment of $57,170 received this past Jan. 31.

He said that, even with the four casinos now open, the profits to school districts aren’t as great as had been promised. In fact, the district’s receipts have been about 45 percent of initial projections.

In a Feb. 4 memo to board members, Puster speculated that one reason for this may be that “the novelty of casino gaming in Ohio wore off more quickly than anticipated. Long lines to enter casinos when they opened have disappeared.”

Saying, “Every dollar helps,” Puster pointed out that the $111,000 received in casino revenue since August is “a very small part” of the district’s $25 million annual budget and that the amount could be reduced even further with the opening of seven racinos in the state, which could draw business from casinos. Racinos, combination casinos and horse race tracks, are not required to share revenue with school districts.

Board member Larry Walton pointed out that charter schools also receive a piece of the casino pie, further diluting the amount going to public schools.

The board also heard a presentation Monday by Wendy Ppfrenger of Kent State University regarding a Rural Scholars Program new to this county designed to help prepare students for post secondary education, whether college or other types of schooling.

“We get them ready,” Ppfrenger told the board, saying it is important to begin reaching students while in middle school with such a program, which includes mentoring, tutoring and social support.

The program is individually tailored to the needs of Columbiana County students, she emphasized, saying many local businesses have already offered to partner with the university on the program.

The hope is that, once the students who go through this program complete their higher education, they will return to the county and reinvest in the community.

Students are chosen to participate by their schools, based on applications and essays they complete.

Matters approved by the board Monday night included:

* A recommendation to appropriate about $21,275 from the general fund for police security for the remainder of the school year, which is a continuation of the current program of which 70 percent had been funded with grant money which has now been exhausted

* The resignation of Gene Hughes as a crossing guard and approved him as a substitute crossing guard

* Pulling from consideration the resignation of teacher Patrick McNicol due to some question about the effective date of the resignation

* Payments by Hylant Insurance for repairs for damage from a sprinkler line leak at North Elementary, not to exceed $25,000

* Fifth grade students’ attendance at Camp Fitch from June 4-6 at their own cost, with the district to pay the $2,600 cost of transportation.