Grove City Record

SWCS keeping promise

District will stay off the ballot in 2013

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The South-Western City School District is on target to keep its promise to voters that it will not need to return to the ballot in 2013.

Treasurer Hugh Garside presented an updated five-year forecast at the school board meeting Monday, Oct. 8.

The forecast shows the district will have a projected cash balance at the end of fiscal year 2013 of $81.6 million, Garside said.

"To have a good financial position, it's good to have three to six months of operating cash and that's roughly $45 to $90 million," he said.

South-Western is not projected to dip below that amount until fiscal year 2016, Garside said.

"Actually, this forecast in its entirety shows a positive cash balance all the way through 2017," he said.

When the district passed its last operating levy in 2009, it promised the community it wouldn't be back on the ballot through 2013, Garside said.

"It's safe to say that 2013 will come and go and we won't be on the ballot," he said.

The board's effort and the cooperation of the district's employee groups has helped make that happen, Garside said.

The positive forecast comes despite a significant decrease in the overall amount of state funding the district is receiving, he said.

South-Western has seen its total amount of state funding fall from $117.8 million in fiscal year 2011 to $116.5 million in fiscal year 2012, a decrease of about 1.1 percent, Garside said.

When one factors in projections for fiscal year 2013, the district can expect to suffer a total decrease of nearly $10 million in state funding, he said.

"That's a pretty big hole to plug," Garside said.

The next biennial state budget will be passed shortly before the July 1, 2013 start of the next two-year budget period, he said. By the time of his next five-year forecast report in May, the rhetoric surrounding the budget battle may give an indication of what school districts may be able to expect regarding state funding for education in the next budget, he said.

State funding and property taxes are the main sources of revenue for the district, Garside said.

"Overall we are showing a 5.6 percent decrease in all of our revenues (in the current fiscal year) and then over the next four fiscal years I'm showing flat to no growth in our revenues," he said.

A future source of revenue -- the Hollywood Casino Columbus -- opened Oct. 8, but a value on the casino will not be established until January 2013 and property taxes for 2013 will not be collected until 2014, Garside said.

As a result, the district will not begin seeing any tax revenue from the casino until fiscal year 2014, Garside said.

He said he has been given no indication of what property value will be established for the casino, but the statutory amount is stated at $250 million.

If the value turns out to be $250 million the district could expect to receive between $1 and $1.5 million in property taxes each year from the casino, Garside said.

AP honors increase

In other business Oct. 8, Executive Director of Secondary Education Erik Shuey reported the district has seen an increase in the number of students receiving AP (Advanced Placement) awards.

The awards recognize high school students who have demonstrated college-level achievement through AP courses and exams.

Forty South-Western students earned the AP Scholar award level, which is given to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams, Shuey said. Last year, 31 district students earned the award.

Thirteen students have achieved the AP Scholar with Honor level, which is given to students who receive an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of the exams.

Last year, 10 students earned the Scholar with Honor award, Shuey said.

Fourteen students earned the AP Scholar with Distinction award level, given to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five of the exams.

"This is a huge jump" over last year's total of four students earning the Scholar with Distinction award, Shuey said.

The number of South-Western students taken AP courses has also increased this year, he said.

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