WJ schools outline five-year financial forecast

The price of education is not cheap and for districts like Jefferson Local, even the costs for cutting grass, resurfacing parking lots, and providing transportation are spiraling out of sight.

Coupled with decreases in state funding and more reliance on local dollars, budgeting becomes a delicate balancing act for Treasurer Jill Smith and Maintenance Director Kent Fuller, who both addressed school board members during an Oct. 13 meeting.

Fuller outlined a five-year maintenance plan and highlighted big ticket items, such as buses and a truck, that need to be replaced. He said, in 1991 the approximate cost for a new school bus was $26,000 and prices jumped $13,000 between 2006 and 2008. Today, Fuller estimated, the cost is $66,000 to $70,000 per vehicle.

“We’re trying to get around 200,000 to 250,000 miles,” reported Fuller. “Fuel costs are going crazy and the new buses don’t get much better gas mileage than the older ones.”

Smith said Jefferson Local was on a two-year bus replacement cycle, but is now forecasting one bus per year as long as funding holds out. While buses are on an annual rotation, the district uses a host of older vehicles for other purposes.

“We have one Case tractor that is 40 years old and still works for us,” Fuller said.

The cost for seal coating parking lots is expected to be $6,000 more than the original installation price because of escalations in the cost of asphalt. However, Fuller said the price for preventative maintenance came in at a lower cost this year, and the district is only paying $3,800 out-of-pocket (before added equipment) for a new Dodge truck.

“We purchased a Ford truck that was a lemon, so Ford gave us a settlement on it,” stated Fuller. “The new truck lists at $42,500 and was on sale for $37,000. We got $11,000 on our trade-in, $6,500 in rebates, and $16,000 in the settlement. We had the other truck for five years, but lost 48 days due to breakdowns.”

Summer storms also took a $60,000 to $70,000 toll on the district. The biggest casualties were a chiller (cooling system) board at the Norwood building and a score board at the high school, in addition to downed trees.

“We’ve got a lot of insurance claims in for the summer lightning storm and wind damage from the September (14) storm,” continued Fuller. 

Smith also presented a five-year forecast, which does not include potential revenue from an income tax levy on the November ballot. Even though the present levy is collected through 2009, funding beyond that time could not be included in the forecast in case the levy does not pass. Smith said this restraint makes the present forecast “a little gloomy.”

“It was not that many years ago we received 54 percent of our funding from the state,” reported Superintendent Bill Mullett. “We’re getting less from the state and depending more from the local community.”

According to the treasurer, the district now receives 34 percent of its funding from the state and 54 percent from taxes. The remainder is from other sources such as fees. Compounding the problem is Ohio’s decision to phase out tangible personal property tax.

“We used to rely more heavily on the state,” reported Smith. “We’re running about 75 percent for salaries and benefits. Unrestricted aid from the state has kind of flattened out. We’ve always had some kind of parity aid and received $415,000 this year, but we’re right on the bubble for parity aid and I’m a little concerned and I’m a little alarmed. It’s a huge amount of money. Parity aid could possibly go away.

“We really need to be cognizant of these types of things that could affect our district. The numbers for community school enrollment have risen and open enrollment is down. There were 92 open enrollments last year and 81 this year. That’s a big difference. We’ve lost about $45,000 in open enrollment.”

Smith said she feels she has been as conservative as possible in making the five-year financial projections and, if the levy passes, the picture should be a little brighter.

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