By Andrea Cordle
In 2009, officials in the South-Western City Schools District promised the community there would be no tax levy requests on the ballot through 2013. That promise has been fulfilled and expanded.
“We have never been in such good financial shape,” said Hugh Garside, district treasurer.
At a recent meeting, the board of education approved the district’s five-year forecast.
“We had a contract with our community to stay off the ballot for operating funds through 2013,” said board president Randy Reisling. “We are fortunate to see we can extend that even further.”
The Ohio Revised Code requires school districts to submit a financial forecast of operational revenues and expenditures twice a year.
According to Garside, overall revenue has increased by approximately 2.5 percent. Collections from real estate tax have increased, due to the Hollywood Casino.
Hollywood Casino, located near the intersection of West Broad Street and Georgesville Road, opened in October 2012. The property is valued at $165 million. South-Western City Schools will receive over $3 million in real estate tax. The district will start collecting that money in 2014.
The district will also see an increase in state funding.
“House Bill 59 pumps some more money into schools,” said Garside.
Garside said the new biennial budget increases unrestricted grants-in-aide, which is the district’s primary source of funding from the state. He said the district should see an increase in this funding over the next two fiscal years. The district is expected to receive a 6.25 percent increase in state aid in fiscal year 2013/14 and a 10.50 percent increase in 2014/15.
The unrestricted grants-in-aide is calculated on a per pupil basis. Enrollment grew by 220 students this year.
While the district will receive a boost in revenue, overall expenditures are also expected to increase by at least 3.5 percent.
The majority of district expenditures come from personnel services, which includes salaries and benefits. It reflects the collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the board of education and employee union groups.
Recently, the board approved a three-year deal with the South-Western Administrator’s Association and Ohio Association of Public Schools Employees unions. Both agreements allow a 2 percent salary increase in each of the next three fiscal years.
According to Garside, the South-Western Education Association contract expired on June 30. The union and the board of education are still negotiating an agreement.
“Hopefully, we will have a resolution soon,” said Garside.
The forecast reflects a 7 percent rise in health care premiums.
Garside said district officials should not see a deficit until 2016.
“It’s possible we can balance our budget by that time,” said the treasurer. “I’m hopeful we can do that.”
For additional information on the five-year financial forecast, visit the district website at www.swcs.us.