Essman: District needs to talk about levies
The Bexley City School District's coffers will remain relatively stable for now, but spending will outweigh revenue in about two years, according to district Treasurer Chris Essman's projections.
Essman presented board members with the latest financial information this month in the form of his five-year forecast, saying Bexley stands on sure footing for the moment but should begin talking about a levy in the near future.
The five-year forecast is a document the state requires to be filed twice a year, in October and again in May. It looks at a district's finances in detail over a five-year period. Essman cautioned that the five-year forecast filed with the state is a fluid document and will change over the next several months.
"We're still in very, very good shape," he told board members earlier this month. "We are trying to save money anywhere and everywhere we can."
In fact, Essman predicts the district will nearly double its savings by the year 2016 as compared to previous projections.
According to Essman's forecast, the district will fall into deficit spending by fiscal year 2014, which ends June 30, 2014. At that point, the district could be outspending its revenue by more than $1 million, according to Essman's projections. Because of a healthy fund balance, though, the district's bottom line will remain at about $15.5 million in the black.
Essman cautioned the board not to wait too long to begin talking about generating revenue.
"We need to talk about future levies as we go through this year," he said.
The good news in the current forecast, he told board members, included a slight increase in real estate tax revenue because of a one-time increase the district received with the August 2012 settlement due to some back taxes recently collected. The district also saw an overall increase in income tax collections to the tune of some $250,000 per year.
On the expenditures side, Essman decreased forecast amounts based on the actual 2012 salaries and salaries adjusted starting in fiscal year 2013. He said he was able to make the adjustments because the district has reduced several positions and replaced retired teachers with lower-paid staff members. The savings, he said, equates to nearly $1.7 million over five years.
"When you have a reduction in salaries and then carry it out over five years, its bigger impact is apparent," he said.
There also was a small increase projected in the district's food-service operation.
Some of the best news is the result of the district's efforts to curb spending and save district dollars.
According to Essman's projections, the balance for June 30, 2016, has been bumped up to $8.564 million. Just six months ago, that same fund balance was expected to be $4.874 million.
"Most of the change is in additional income tax revenue and a decrease in salaries as noted above," Essman said in a letter to board members. "The compounding of the changes over the five years makes the difference."
Essman said Bexley traditionally has gone to voters every three years to ask for additional revenue. But because of a number of factors, the district had been able to stay off the ballot an extra three years prior to a 2010 levy.
Board members had previously agreed the district likely would return to voters for additional funding in order to keep the district afloat in either 2013 or 2014. They are expected to revisit that topic in the next few months.