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Columbus Schools project deficit by 2013
A pending state funding plan and delinquent property tax revenue will contribute to a projected $56 million deficit by fiscal year 2013 in Columbus City Schools.
The deficit was part of a five-year forecast presented at the May 19 Columbus Board of Education meeting by Treasurer Penny Rucker.
The forecast showed the district spending at a 16 percent rate over the next four years. Expenditures are projected to grow from $702 million at the end of fiscal year 2009, to $797 million at the end of fiscal year 2013.
At the end of next year, the general fund is expected to be $744 million, according to the forecast. The general fund is projected to be $741 million by the end of 2013.
By 2013, the district - along with all districts in Ohio -- will no longer receive revenue from the tangible personal property tax, which is paid by businesses on furniture, fixtures, equipment and inventory. The district has accounted for the loss of the tangible property tax as well as a projected 7 percent delinquent property tax rate over the five year period, according to Rucker. Both Rucker and Superintendent Gene Harris note Governor Ted Strickland's proposed state funding plan, which could change how districts statewide will receive funding.
As part of a levy promise to voters in November, the district vowed to make $76 million in cuts over four years, including reduction in staff and the closing of several buildings due to declining enrollment.
According to Rucker and Budget Director Robyn Essman, the district will make $11 million in cuts next fiscal year, which will add up to more than $44 million over the next four years. The district, however, will also pay $14 million in restoring time to the school day, implementing the state-mandated Ohio Core requirements, reducing early elementary school class sizes and increasing safety and security personnel, all using funds gained by November's levy.
How the cuts are reflected in the forecast were a concern of board member Stephanie Groce, who was the only board member to vote against the forecast. Groce questioned the district's decision to calculate more than $19 million in cuts when the specifics of the cuts have yet to be determined.
"It's hard for me to say yes, this is a responsible forecast, with almost $20 million in unidentified cuts," Groce said.
Harris explained that, though it was too early to give specific details on the cuts, the district may "have a better handle" of it by the fall.
Personnel, including fringe benefits and pay increases, accounts for 57 percent of the district's general fund, according to Rucker. Next fiscal year, the district will pay a total of $394 million for salaries and $137 million for fringe benefits.
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