Bexley News

Bexley schools forecast

District stretching levy, keeping its promise

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Good news for homeowners in Bexley: School district officials say they should remain off the ballot for at least another year, extending the life of the last levy by two years.

District Treasurer Chris Essman delivered that news during this month's regular board meeting, during which he presented his latest five-year forecast.

"That's great news," said Marlee Snowdon, board vice president.

The five-year forecast is a document the state requires to be filed twice a year, in October and again in May, that looks at a district's finances in detail over a five-year period. Essman cautioned the board to remember the five-year forecast is a fluid document and will change over the next several months.

In May, Essman had predicted that the district would fall into deficit spending by 2014. But because of some positive outcomes affecting the district's budget, expenses won't outweigh revenue until fiscal year 2015, Essman predicted.

That's one year later than previously thought.

According to Essman's latest forecast, the district will fall into deficit spending by fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30, 2015. At that point, the district could be outspending by around $847,000.

Because of a healthy fund balance, though, the district's bottom line will remain about $17.7 million in the black.

Essman cautioned the board should not wait too long to begin talking about generating revenue.

He recommended the district start forming a committee to explore the issue next year.

"Long-term, we will have to look at a levy," Essman said last week, "but not likely next year."

Voters in Bexley approved a 6.5-mill levy in November 2010. District officials promised the money would last three years, which is typical for the district. If Bexley does not return to voters until 2015, Essman said that will give Bexley an additional two more years on the current levy.

The good news is the result of several factors, including a quicker-than-expected recovery in the local economy, a two-year pay freeze for teachers, an upswing in the amount of school district income tax, and a larger-than-expected contribution by the state (including casino money), Essman said.

According to Essman's figures, the current fiscal year (which ends June 30, 2014) will close $366,735 in the black and with an $18.5 million fund balance.

In fiscal year 2016, the district's deficit spending will increase, Essman predicted, falling around $2.7 million short by June of that same year. A continued healthy savings, though, will keep the district afloat, this time leaving it with a $14.9 million fund balance.

If the district maintains that course without passing a levy in 2015, Essman predicted continued deficit spending, which will leave the district with a little more than $4 million in the bank by June 2018.

The passage of a levy in 2015, if the district continues on the course as Essman predicts, would boost district coffers again and eliminate deficit spending while increasing the district's fund balance significantly.

Despite a traditional three-year levy cycle in Bexley, district officials have been able to stay off the ballot longer in recent years.

In 2004, the district promised voters it would stay off the ballot for five years, but remained off for six.

Again, the district is stretching its previous promise by two years.

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