Rocky Fork Enterprise

Five-year forecast

School district faces deficit starting in 2015

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education adopted a revised five-year forecast Oct. 11 that shows a $2 million deficit in fiscal year 2015.

Treasurer Julio Valladares said the deficit would increase to $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.8 million in 2017 without going back to the community for additional revenue.

He said the last levy that passed -- 5.2 mills in May 2011 -- was for "bare minimum to survive." Two previous levy attempts in November 2010 and in May 2010 were defeated and followed by cuts and lower millage requests.

"The next step is for the administration and board to talk about strategies about going on the ballot," Valladares said.

He said the district in 2009 started to make cuts that have continued for the past three years.

"We've been in that mode," he said. "Overall, the forecast is indicative of what we've done the last three years."

Valladares said the district has eliminated positions through attrition and retirements to save money, and no pay increases have occurred in the past few years.

The district's teachers agreed in April 2011 to take two furlough days, valued at $369,000, allowing the district to rehire 16 teachers who were part of a reduction in force approved the previous month. The teachers also agreed to no step increases for the 2011-12 school year.

"Thanks to the employees for taking steps to reduce costs," Valladares said. "We still have challenges to meet. We'll continue to look at where we can save."

Board member Heather Bishoff said the school district has worked very hard not to forget where it recently stood financially. She said the district has not only cut expenses but also has looked for innovative ways to save funds.

Valladares reported that all of the spaces at the Commons at Clark Hall have been filled.

The Commons, beside Clark Hall, features 14,000-square-foot and 9,000-square-foot single-story buildings with various tenants.

Valladares said Chipotle would open in the next two weeks, with the Rusty Bucket slated to open Nov. 8. A sneak peak for the Rusty Bucket begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, when 20 percent of all sales will be donated to the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation. Panera Bread and AT&T will open in December.

"We're pleased what we planned is happening," Valladares said. "Without the buildings being done, it's happening."

Board member Windy McKenna said it's great news to hear about the Commons being filled because many residents doubted the project's success.

"People said it was foolish because of the empty spaces in town," she said. "They said we would have an empty building. We're taken care of, thank you."

The Gahanna-Jefferson school district will receive an annual $132,000 land-lease payment from Wagenbrenner Development Inc. as a result of the Commons development.

Valladares said he estimates the development would raise $88,000 in real estate taxes annually.

The project is anticipated to bring an additional 70 jobs to Gahanna with an annual payroll of $2 million, thus generating an anticipated $30,000 annually in income taxes, according to Valladares.

In other board discussion, Superintendent Francis Scruci said he would start a "Superintendent's Coffee" that would be offered every other Thursday.

"It's for community members to have access to me," he said.

The first coffee will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Bob Evans, near City Hall. Two weeks later, the coffee will be held at the Agler Road Tim Hortons.

"It's a good opportunity to communicate with the community and be transparent," Scruci said.

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