Solid finances help CW Schools deal with growing enrollment

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

The financial pie for Canal Winchester Schools ranges from property taxes, income tax, and state funding to salaries and operating expenses with a cash balance leading the way.

“Everything we do is derived from the cash balance,” said Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Nick Roberts during a five-year financial forecast presentation to the Canal Winchester Board of Education on Nov. 21. “The cash balance is allowing us to stay off the ballot longer. It allowed us to do a $25 million project with the OSFC at the high school addition.”

According to Roberts, the district has not asked for new tax money since 2009 and tax rates continue to decline. In 2016, the rate was nearly 51. In 2021, it dropped to 40.37.

In addition, with continued growth and construction, income tax revenue continues to increase and Canal Winchester Schools also receives state funding. Levies and bond issues are collected at a set rate. As the amount of those paying into the district increase, the individual collection number goes down.

“As long as things continue to prosper in this district, we won’t need to address anything,” said Roberts.

He cautioned, by state law, 2023 is a property reappraisal period for Franklin County and 2024 for Fairfield County.

“This year and next year, our taxpayers are going to feel the pinch,” said Roberts. “They’re estimating 35 to 40 percent increase in reappraisals in Franklin County. In 2023, we’ll see a big jump.”

Real estate property tax revenue accounts for more than 33 percent of total revenue.

Residential/agricultural taxes make up approximately 79.6 percent of the real estate property tax revenue.

Canal Winchester Schools maintained one income tax levy in fiscal year 2022. The average dollar change in total income tax revenue is forecasted to be $520,408 through the end of the forecast. Income tax revenue is projected to account for 15.5 percent of total district revenue in fiscal year 2027.

Salaries have the largest projected average annual variance compared to the historical average of $1.4 million and represent more than 53 percent of total expenditures. This category is projected to grow at an annual average rate of 6.7 percent or $2 million through fiscal year 2027.

Benefits represent more than 21 percent of total expenditures and are projected to grow at an annual average rate of 6.6 percent through the end of the financial forecast.

Purchased services represent 12 percent of total expenditures and decreased at a historical average annual rate of negative 3.5 percent. It is projected to grow at an annual average rate of 2.4 percent through fiscal year 2027.

Supplies and materials represent 4.6 percent of total expenditures and is projected to grow at an annual average rate of 5 percent through the forecast.

Another element driving the district’s financial forecast is growing student enrollment.

With an expected four-year birth rate increase of 23 percent and a subsequent increase in kindergarten enrollment—in 2022 the kindergarten enrollment was 232 and is projected to reach 328 students by 2027—the district is moving ahead with a 30,000 square foot Indian Trail Elementary addition.

“The numbers are definitely coming,” said Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent Kiya Hunt. “This addition is allowing us room to grow.”

The addition provides 18 new classrooms, with eight kindergarten classrooms on the first floor and 10 regular classrooms on the second floor. Preschool classes would move from Winchester Trail to Indian Trail, freeing up additional classroom space at Winchester Trail Elementary.

“It’s an advantage,” said Hunt, “and allows from preschool to kindergarten, first and second grade to have less transition. Moving preschool over opens up six classrooms at Winchester Trail for future growth. It’s smart to build now. It makes sense to build now.”

Hunt said taxpayers will not be asked for additional funding for the addition or operations.

She hopes the addition—which will be built before breaking through to the main building in summer—will be ready for occupancy in time for the 2024-25 school year.

“It’s the most cost effective plan we have,” said Roberts. “Not that many districts are able to do what we’ve done. To basically fund an addition and continue operating this without additional money.”

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