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Fiscal woes forecast for Wellsville schools

October 16, 2012
Morning Journal News

WELLSVILLE - It was a good news, bad news scenario that played out at the Wellsville Board of Education's monthly meeting on Monday evening.

District fiscal officer Colleen Wickham had stark news contained within the five-year forecast prepared for the board. "We will be out of cash in the year 2016," she said. Her report shows 2010 as the last year the district took in more than it spent, ending ahead by $264,799. Spending began outstripping revenues the following year by $445,950 and by $439,610 in 2012.

The district's cash reserves, which stood at $2.95 million in 2010, have allowed Wellsville schools to function without handicap, ending this past school year at $2,064,447. Wickham's report shows the unbalance taking its toll, however, dropping to $1.37 million by 2013, to $457,850 by 2014 and to -$596,240 by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

Wickham says the primary culprit is steadily rising health insurance costs, which sat at $92,000 in 2012 and are expected to continue rising at a rate of 12 percent annually over the next five years. "We have been trying to make adjustments to this, but unless something drastic changes with our insurance, we're going to be out of cash," she said.

In addition, board member Ed Bauer said lower enrollment equals less funding from Columbus, and Superintendent Richard Bereschik confirmed that district enrollment is down to 825 students. "We're going to have to be awfully careful over the next year or two," Bauer said. Board President Karen Dash also pointed out that higher insurance rates are not exclusive to the district. "Everyone's kind of in the same boat that we are."

Brophey asked if the anticipated revenues from Ohio's new casinos could help offset the losses. "The most it can help us out the first time around is either $17,000 or $19,000," Bauer replied. Though projections show the district's portion increasing slightly the following year, Bauer also pointed out that casino attendance has already begun to slide from initial number after the facilities opened earlier this year.

Wickham stressed the changeable nature of five-year forecasts, particularly with a state budget not yet completed. "You can only work with the figures from the state that you have now," Bauer said. "You work with what's in front of you at the time." He cited the district's previous attempt at settling finances, which was disrupted by a $230,000 cut in state funding.

"But we'll get through it," he said. "Guaranteed."

The welcome bit of good news came from Dash, who announced preliminary results of the long-delayed school district report cards from the Ohio Department of Education. The advance data shows all three Wellsville schools are set to receive an Excellent rating for the 2010-2011 year, a first for Wellsville Schools. "We couldn't be happier," Dash said.

"We're really, really proud of our people, and we want the public to know that," Bauer said. "This is a tribute to the people who run those schools and the people who work there," Bauer said.

Bill Miller echoed Bauer's sentiments, calling it "mind-boggling."

"That outweighs any financial difficulties," he added.

The next meeting of the Board of Education is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19 in the superintendent's office.



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