Financial standing strong in South-Western City Schools District

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The presentation of the annual financial review for the South-Western City Schools District took place at the Dec. 6 board of education meeting.

According to Treasurer High Garside, the fiscal year 2020-21 saw a slight increase in revenue, a slight decrease in expenditures and the projected stability of the district’s financial outlook.

“I would say our fiscal standing is strong in the South-Western City Schools District,” he said.

There was a rise in revenue in fiscal year 2020-21 of 1 percent, which roughly translates to an additional $3 million in the general fund. The district’s total general fund revenue for that fiscal year was $292.6 million.

Garside said the general fund operation budget is supported by revenues from real estate taxes, state funding, property tax allocations, public utility personal property tax and other sources.

The largest source of revenue, he said, comes from the state of Ohio.

“Just a little over 50 percent of our funds come from the state, the state’s funding formula.”

Garside explained that the allocation is determined on a per pupil basis and said the district is no longer considered a capped district per the state funding allocation formula. He projects the district will receive additional funding due to the passage of the Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP) but added those dollars are only in the budget for two years.

The district could receive upwards of $151 million annually in state aid should the FSFP be fully funded over a six-year period.

Garside said some of the flatness of the revenue could be contributed to lower than expected interest earnings.

“Interest earnings were down $4.6 million due to very weak interest rates from the pandemic and all the things that happened with that,” he said. “It really hurt the bottom market as far as what we can get and what we can invest our dollars in.”

The treasurer said he modeled those lower earnings in the future forecast to make sure the district is not expecting more than they will actually receive.

There was a decrease in the overall expenditures by 2.8 percent in fiscal year 2020-21; the total general fund expenditures for this fiscal year was $271.4 million.

Garside said much of that decrease was due to offsetting costs from the America Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Of the general fund expenditures, Garside said 64 cents, or 64 percent, out of every dollar is devoted to instructional activities and 8 cents, or 8 percent, out of every dollar is spent for instructional support.

“Seventy two cents of every dollar goes to instructional support; that is really where the rubber meets the road,” he said.

He said the capital projects fund will see more activity in the 2021-22 fiscal year as they put the finishing touches on the $193 million Ohio Facilities Construction Commission Middle School Build Project.

Garside added the district was not hit hard with inflation costs for this building project as the costs and fees were contracted years ago.

“We really dodged a bullet there with this project,” he said after the meeting.

He said there was one anomaly with the enterprise funds, which consist of food service, uniform school supplies, Rotary funds, and summer school funds.

“Our food service department actually spent more than it brought in (during the 2020-21 fiscal year),” said Garside.

He said that was due to the duration when students were in the virtual learning format.

“We actually spent less on purchasing food that year, but we also had to continue to pay our staff their wages and benefits,” said Garside.

He said the department remained stable financially because they have retained positive cash balances. Garside credited supervisor Lisa Hamrick for pulling the department through that brief period when the expenditures surpassed the revenue.

District officials project the food services department will see an increase in revenue in the upcoming fiscal year.

Garside said though the district’s overall revenue is flat, they continue to maintain a positive cash balance of 5 to 10 months. He said the district sees no need to request an operating levy at this point in time.

In other news, the board of education approved the hiring of Evan Debo and Dr. Susan Hayward to the positions of executive director of communications and community relations and assistant superintendent of personnel, respectively.

The board also set the date and time for the tax budget hearing for fiscal year 2022-23 at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 3 with the organizational meeting immediately following.

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