The Canal Winchester Times

Groveport Madison

Deficit will balloon to $20.5M in five years

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Groveport Madison Local School District Treasurer Anthony Swartz is predicting a $438,000 budget shortage for fiscal year 2013 that could reach $20.5 million by the end of fiscal year 2017.

Swartz painted the gloomy economic picture for the GMLSD Board of Education on Thursday, Oct. 11, when he presented a five-year forecast, which school districts are required to submit to the Ohio Department of Education twice a year.

The budget for fiscal year 2013 ends June 30, 2013.

"The picture that I am delivering here is bleak," Swartz said.

According to the forecast, the district is facing a $438,000 deficit in FY 2013; $4.7 million in FY 2014; $9.6 million in FY 2015, $15.1 million in FY 2016; and $20.5 million in FY 2017.

While the passage of a levy in August prevented the board from making more than $8 million in cuts to balance the school district's operating budget this school year, the levy basically maintains the amount of money collected in property taxes each year, but does not add any new money to the district's checkbook.

Swartz told the board that the number of district property owners not paying their real estate taxes has risen by 10 percent and has erased more than $2.5 million from the district's operating budget.

In addition to the loss of revenue from property taxes, the gradual elimination of the tangible personal property tax and the axing of federal and state grants have taken a toll on the amount of money coming in, he said.

"We're back to funding levels of 1996 with more state requirements," Swartz said.

According to the latest five-year forecast, anticipated revenue is $59.7 million in FY 2013 and $58.7 million for the remaining years of the forecast.

Swartz detailed the ways that expenses have been held: freezing base wages in FY 2012 and FY 2013; cutting supplies and transportation services; and energy-savings measures.

Still, health insurance, Medicare, workers' compensation and retirement costs are expected to rise over the course of the forecast, he said.

By keeping the belt tight on the budget, he said he expects to be able to trim the deficit out of the budget by the end of this fiscal year; however, he told the board that a new levy will likely be a necessity sometime in 2013.

In other matters, the board received an update on the district dress code from Rich Playko, dean of students.

Last year, Playko proposed that mandatory school uniforms be made part of the dress code. Instead, the board opted to keep the current policy in effect, but asked that teachers and administrators enforce it more.

At the high school, with enrollment of more than 1,000 students, Playko reported 108 incidents of dress code violations where a student received a warning and was required to change clothes. Of that number, 11 students have violated the policy a second time this academic year, he said.

A few band parents and students upset with a new $50 per student pay-to-participate fee for extracurricular activities questioned why band members would not be allowed to take part in a performance prior to Oct. 26, the extended date by which fees must be paid.

Superintendent Bruce Hoover said athletes are required to pay their fees before their first athletic event or make arrangements with the school principal to set up a payment plan. He told the audience that the same type of plan can be used by other students participating in extracurricular activities.

Dee Copas, district director of communications, told the board she plans changes in the district website over the next several months to make it more user-friendly and to allow parents to have one-stop access to menus, grades, fees and other services.

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