Both the superintendent and the president of the board pointed to finances as the top issue facing Groveport Madison schools in 2012.
"We had several challenges in 2012," board President Charlotte Barker said. "First and foremost was getting our renewal levy passed and finding ways to reduce our budget with the least impact on the education process should it not pass.
"Of course, the continual unfunded mandates from the state of Ohio have been exceptionally difficult this year because they were accompanied with cuts in funding," she added.
New Superintendent Bruce Hoover, who succeeded Scott McKenzie in that post, agreed.
"The greatest challenge faced by the Groveport Madison Local School District in 2012 was determining how to provide excellence in instruction and programming while funding at federal, state and local levels was decreasing," Hoover said.
During a January 2012 work session, Treasurer Anthony Swartz provided the board of education with a five-year forecast that detailed the anticipated loss of approximately $3 million in revenue as a result of $1.8 million worth of funding cuts from the state and a "skyrocketing" number of property tax delinquencies.
The loss of revenue from the collection of property taxes totaled nearly $1.2 million, he said.
Calculated into the five-year budget forecast was another $7.7-million loss in income that would have vanished at the end of December when the existing levy was set to expire.
At the meeting, Swartz warned the board that even with the passage of a levy equivalent to what was currently in place, the district would barely squeak through fiscal year 2013 with a balance of $31,000. After that, he said, the budget deficit would be $2.7 million the following year and would reach nearly $12 million by FY 2016.
In February, approximately 180 students, parents, and staff members packed Groveport Madison Middle School North cafeteria to learn how deep the budget axe would swing in reducing the district's budget by more than $8 million over the next two school years.
In anticipation of that loss, the board of education voted to slash approximately $3.6 million from its budget in the 2012-2013 school year and $4.5 million in the 2013-2014.
Those cuts were expected to result in the loss of 23 teaching and staff positions and 109 jobs unless additional income was raised.
The board approved a plan to balance the budget by reducing the district workforce and cutting programs. To address some of the financial challenges, the board in April reviewed 11 levy scenarios and scratched out all but one: an August substitute levy that, if approved, was expected to generate the same amount of money -- approximately $7.7 million -- that the current emergency levy brings in.
As part of its budget-crunching efforts, the board voted unanimously in May to double student pay-to-participate fees and added fees for some programs that previously did not have any. Under the new structure, students pay $150 for each activity and a separate $25 fee for drug testing.
Junior high and middle school athletes and cheerleaders also felt the effects of the fee increase when the school board raised their participation fee from $50 per activity last school year to $100 for the current school year.
Students in the high school choir, marching and pep bands, theater/drama, and the Cruiserettes were charged $100 per activity for the first time in the 2012-13 school year.
Students involved in student council, the school newspaper, National Honor Society, mock trial competition, Spanish Club and yearbook at the middle school, junior high and high school levels received a bill for the first time of $25 per activity.
On Aug. 1, Hoover, who was deputy superintendent, took over the helm as superintendent after Scott McKenzie retired.
"A new superintendent brings new ways of approaching education. We are moving toward the 21st century outlook on education with different ways of approaching curriculum and are moving toward more online learning," Barker said.
Also in August -- just six days after Hoover became superintendent -- voters approved the district's substitute levy request, which prevented the board from making more than $8 million in cuts to balance the school district's operating budget this school year.
"The greatest challenge from the treasurer's perspective was the passage of the substitute emergency levy," Swartz said. "What it did was prevent, at least temporarily, devastating cuts in the district. The passage of this levy allowed us to put off asking for more money for one year, thus giving the taxpayers a break from any additional property taxes."
In October, Swartz predicted a $438,000 budget shortage for fiscal year 2013 that could balloon to $20.5 million by the end of FY 2017.
He told the board that a rash of property owners not paying their real estate taxes increased by 10 percent and 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 state's tangible personal property tax and cuts to federal and state grants took a toll on the amount of money coming into the district.
Anticipated revenue for FY 13 is $59.7 million. Revenue for the remaining years of the five-year forecast is expected to be $58.7 million annually, Swartz said.
"The greatest disappointment from a treasurer's perspective is the continual decline in revenues and increases in expenses that we have no control over," he said.
Hoover said he was pleased that preliminary results from the Ohio Department of Education indicated that Groveport Madison received an "excellent" rating on the state report card for the second year in a row.
"We are proud that we continue to receive a rating of "excellent" by the state of Ohio on our local report card and are especially proud of the above-average growth gain in our district for the third consecutive year," Hoover said.
"Having an above-average growth value-added rating is really a testimony to the hard work and dedication our staff provides all of our students and measures our organization's effectiveness in providing high quality programs," he added.