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School district sees a dismal budget ahead

October 24, 2012
Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL - With state revenue flat-lined for the foreseeable future and expenses rising, the city school district is looking at a deficit budget balance by fiscal year 2015-16, the school board learned Monday night.

Treasurer Todd Puster offered a power point presentation on the most recent five-year forecast at the regular board meeting, saying that, while the district expects to end this fiscal year with a $4.1 million balance, by 2016-17, a $4.8 million deficit is predicted.

In between, the district will likely see a $2.6 million positive balance in 2013-14 and $679,544 in 2014-15, then drop to a $1.6 million deficit the next year before spiraling to the $4.8 deficit the fifth year of the forecast, Puster reported.

Article Photos

East Liverpool Board of Education members saw this colorful, if slightly disturbing, graphic during a presentation Monday night regarding the district's five year forecast. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)

He explained that district expenditures are predicted to exceed revenues each of the next five years, saying, "The time to bring these into balance is now, while the district has sufficient cash reserves."

Puster reminded the board that state financial support for the district has "flat-lined," with "little willingness to provide additional funding for Ohio's local governments, including its public school districts," based on statements by state officials.

About 80 percent of the district's income is derived from state funding, with 16 percent from local property tax and the remainder from tuition and interest.

Of its operating budget, employee costs wages and benefits compose 75 percent of the district's spending.

The fastest rising cost in the district is employee health insurance, Puster said.

The district continues to lose money from school choice costs, such as open enrollment, community schools and school choice voucher programs, with nearly $2.7 million lost from the 467 district students opting for those programs at this time.

An improving state report card could encourage greater enrollment in the district, which could reduce the costs of other options, he pointed out.

With a stabilizing student enrollment, eliminating jobs is not as viable a solution to cut costs as it once was, Puster cautioned.

The last time district residents approved an operating levy was in November of 1996, according to Puster, who said decisions can be made over the next three years to improve the financial picture, emphasizing those decisions do not have to be limited to program cuts or tax increases.

The entire report given to the board is available for review on the school district's web site.

The board rescheduled its Nov. 12 meeting to 6 p.m. Nov. 6, with the understanding that much of the meeting will be taken up with a workshop on financial issues.

In other business Monday, Superintendent James Herring reported that the district has attained an "effective" rating on the state report card, the first time since the 1998-99 school year, saying, "It's a start."

He congratulated the staff, parents and students but emphasized, "We can't stop here. I'd like to see a couple more buildings become effective and the district become 'excellent.' It takes a community to make it work. We're not going to stop."

Herring also said that, following a report at the last board meeting by member Richard Wolf about his grandson being a victim of allergy bullying, an investigation was launched.

He said no incidents of such bullying have been found in the district.

Wolf later clarified his earlier report, saying his grandson does not attend the city school district.

A report on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee was given by LaCroft Principal Linda Lindsey and North Principal Paula Ekis, who said some steps have been taken to meet the unfunded state mandate but others still need to be implemented.

A number of personnel matters were approved by the board, including a contract with the county ESC for a truancy officer three days per week, although Wolf and member Scott Dieringer were opposed.

Dieringer offered no reason for his opposition, but Wolf said he would not support the measure unless a full-time "attendance officer" were hired, saying the district has the lowest attendance rate in the county and that "truancy is more than missing school; it's a social issue."



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