Delaware News

Big Walnut financial forecast shows '16 deficit


The Big Walnut Local School District needs to put an operating levy on the ballot by 2015 or face having a deficit of about $4.5 million by fiscal year 2016, according to the district treasurer's five-year financial forecast.

School board members unanimously approved the forecast at their meeting Monday, Oct. 8, after listening to Treasurer Felicia Drummey explain various financial projections.

"The bottom line in revenue (is) it's flat to declining," Drummey said. "The levy needs to be replaced ... The great news is, with the help of all our staff, we are able to make the levy last (for all five years) and maintain excellence in our district."

After several levy failures, voters approved an emergency five-year, 7.5-mill levy in 2010 that has helped the district maintain financial stability.

In addition, all but one of the unions in the district have negotiated new labor contracts this year that include modest raises as well as concessions in healthcare benefits.

However, the forecast shows expenditures will begin to outpace revenue within the next couple of years, forcing the district to rely on cash carryover to help maintain operations.

By fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, 2015, the district expects to have $26.4 million in revenue in the general fund, but expenditures will be at about $33.3 million. A cash balance of only $2.37 million is expected to be carried over to fiscal 2016, meaning the district would face a $4.5 million deficit that year.

After the emergency levy expires in 2015, and if no new funding is available, the district would have a $15.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2017, according to the forecast.

Also at last week's board meeting:

* The board approved a first-ever trip outside the United States for the annual Big Walnut band and choir trip. The students will take a Carnival Cruise Line excursion to the Bahamas April 3-7.

Both board President Pamula Lillie and Vice President Allison Fagan said they had concerns about whether there would be adequate supervision of the students.

"Make sure the chaperones do a good job," Lillie told high school Principal Stephen Fujii and band director Craig Porter.

Porter said the plan is to have one chaperone per eight students.

Volunteers from the school staff, as well as parents, will serve as chaperones. In addition, the cruise line also has chaperones for any trips from the ship to the islands.

"The idea of an international trip has been discussed before," Porter said. "We were looking for a trip with good performance possibilities."

An international music festival will take place on the islands at that time.

Full details about the trip, as well as how many students, staff and parents might go, have yet to be finalized. School officials said they wanted to get permission from the school board before proceeding with the plans.

* The board approved revising the district's bullying policy, including allowing a system of anonymous reporting of bullying.

Fagan praised the work of everyone who participated in working on the revised policy.

"The challenge of reporting bullying requires a tremendous amount of courage," she said.

* Board members heard about the need to revise board policy on the number of meetings held each year. Currently, the limit is 15.

That has been met this year. Beginning with the Oct. 8 meeting, board members will serve free for the rest of the year. They normally make $80 a meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Gary Barber told the board that a revised policy to allow more meetings could be acted on in December.

Holding only 15 meetings a year isn't possible anymore, Barber said.

"It's a reflection of the (increased) work you do," he said.