Bexley News

Schools Notebook

District in midst of financial, levy discussion

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The Bexley City School District has managed to make funds from a 2010 levy last longer than expected, yet soon it will be time for the district to ask stakeholders for the next school levy.

Fortunately, our community is home to many professionals and interested residents willing to help the school district figure out the complexities of school financing.

Bexley's Financial Accountability Committee has come together to review financial projections and assist with an analysis of short-term and long-term financial planning.

First convened in 2003 to offer insight about school funding, the group has recently been reviewing Bexley's five-year financial forecast and the history of the district's tax levies. The committee has also learned about trends in the district's revenue sources and expenditures, as well as the looming impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on the district's financial future.

Most of Bexley Schools' revenue comes from our community in the form of income and property tax levies, with about 80 percent from local income and property tax collections. Some 11.5 percent of school district revenue is provided through the state foundations program; the rest is from investments and other sources.

The Financial Accountability Committee last recommended a school levy in 2010. That levy, bolstered by the district's pledge to stay off the ballot for three years, passed by a decisive margin.

Keeping its promise, the school district is in its fourth year operating on the 2010 levy. Preliminary predictions indicate that we will very likely continue to operate on this levy for a fifth year, through 2015.

We in the school district have been extra mindful of economic conditions and other variables, allowing us to stay off the ballot for this long.

For example, our teachers agreed to a five-year contract that limited their salary increases and reduced district expenditures during the recent economic downturn. Base salaries were frozen in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and only increased by 1.5 percent in 2013-14 and 1 percent in 2014-15.

The economic downturn had significant adverse effects starting in 2008 on the district's income tax collections.

In 2009 and 2010, these amounts plummeted each year by $1.4 million. Finally, the economy recovered and now the district's income tax collections have risen back to pre-recession levels and higher.

An added benefit is that Bexley continues to receive $3.9 million in state foundation funding, despite repeated threats of cuts by the legislature.

At the same time, our expenditures are below projected levels because our health insurance costs have been increasing at a slower rate than originally forecast. We have been diligent about managing personnel decisions and staffing, decreasing expenses via competitive bidding and energy management, and reducing capital expenditures on an annual basis.

In short, Bexley Schools is in a good position to look to the future and make sound financial decisions that best support its thriving programs.

I appreciate the committee members' initial steps in this direction and I am looking forward to continuing discussions about school district finances and related business practices at our next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 24 in the Community Room at the Cassingham Complex. The public is invited.

Michael Johnson is the superintendent of Bexley City Schools.

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