By Rick Palsgrove
On June 14, the Groveport Madison Board of Education voted 4-1 on a resolution to proceed to place a 6.68 mill continuing operating levy on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Board member Kathleen Walsh was the lone dissenting vote. At a previous board meeting she stated district officials must commit to having a written 10 to 15 year strategic plan with goals and how the district will accomplish those goals.
At the board’s June 14 meeting, Walsh questioned why a continuing levy was being placed on the ballot instead of a “true renewal,” which would be for five years.
“I don’t know why we’re doing that,” said Walsh.
When asked if a continuing levy is essentially a permanent levy since it does not have a fixed term, Groveport Madison Communications Director Jeff Warner said, “While there are differences in the legal terminology, it is essentially a permanent levy.”
Groveport Madison Treasurer Felicia Drummey said the levy would be a “no new taxes” renewal of the existing levy and that its passage is “crucial to get the financial support to maintain our programming for our students.”
District resident Ernest Lee told the board at its June 14 meeting the levy would be a hardship for seniors and individuals.
“You say it (the levy) is not new, but it is because it’s permanent, so accountability goes away,” said Lee. “You think residents have money just to give to the board to do whatever it wants.”
Board President LaToya Dowdell-Burger noted there is a senior citizens home exemption available that has been expanded in the new state budget and state law.
The district has not received any new money since the current expiring 6.68 mill expense levy was first approved by voters in 2014. That “no new taxes” levy was renewed by 67 percent of voters in 2019.
If the levy is approved in November, the district would receive half the funds it generates in 2025 and the remainder in 2026.
Drummey said inflation is causing expenses to outpace flat revenues.
According to the five year forecast, this revenue gap could grow to $4.8 million next year and $9 million the following year.
In fiscal year 2023, the five year forecast shows expenditures are expected to be greater than revenue by $1 million. By fiscal year 2027, expenditures are projected to be greater than revenue by $18.2 million. The district would need to cut its fiscal year 2027 projected expenses by 16.2 percent to balance its budget without additional revenue. The district’s cash balance is positive at year‐end in fiscal year 2023 and is projected to worsen by fiscal year 2027.
According to Drummey, a worsening cash balance can erode the district’s financial stability over time.
To ensure the district has the necessary resources to keep up its services to students and provide additional safety measures, Drummey said the district needs to close the revenue gap, which includes: spending reductions, renewing the expiring levy, and passing a new additional levy – or a combination of these actions.
When asked if there are there plans to consider an additional levy in 2024 on top of the one on the November 2023 ballot, Warner said, “There’s nothing definite about anything beyond the fall levy renewal. The big uncertainty is whether the state will fully fund the school funding formula. If they don’t, there’s a strong likelihood that we would need to request additional funds through another operating levy.”
Drummey said the board could consider $4 million to $6 million in spending reductions to balance the operating budget, depending on the board’s comfort level in reducing services.
According the district’s most recent five year forecast released, 42 percent of its total revenue comes from property taxes, 39 percent from state funding, and about 20 percent from other sources. Salaries make up 52 percent of expenditures, benefits are 23 percent, purchased services are 17 percent, and supplies/materials are 3.5 percent.
School resource officers
The board approved a three-year memorandum of understanding with Madison Township for two Madison Township Police officers to serve as school resource officers. One officer will primarily work at the high school and the other requested officer could work in the district’s other schools in the north side of the district. The school district will cover 70 percent of salary and benefit costs, along with other costs. The township will cover the remaining 30 percent of the officer’s salary.
Groveport Madison previously contracted for one Madison Township officer and one city of Groveport officer to serve as school resource officers.
Groveport City Council is considering legislation for a three year contract with Groveport Madison for the city to provide a Groveport Police officer as a school resource officer for the district.
Under the contract the city would provide one officer to serve as a full time school resource officer at the high school and potentially an additional officer to perform duties at the schools on the south side of the district as well as helping at the high school.
The school district would provide 70 percent of the cost of the yearly salary, benefits, retirement, and additional costs. The remaining 30 percent is covered by the city.