Olentangy Valley News

Olentangy district forecast

District sees funding as bigger issue than growth

By

Olentangy Local School District officials project the district will reach 20,000 students over the course of the next five years.

According to the district's five-year forecast, Olentangy schools expects to have 20,065 students by fiscal year 2018 -- an increase of about 2,500 students compared with current enrollment numbers.

While the district expects to add 130 certified staff members and 20 classified staff members over that same time period, it does not expect to add a new building.

District Treasurer Brian Kern presented those estimates during the first reading of the district's five-year forecast at the Olentangy Board of Education's May 6 meeting.

He noted that while district voters approved a bond issue to pay for a 16th elementary school and other permanent improvements in 2011, the time has not come for its construction.

"As it stands right now, at the moment, there are no plans ... for that elementary or any other new building," Kern said.

The forecast estimates that the district's student-teacher ratio might reach 16 to 1 by the end of the school year in 2015. The ratio climbed from 15.34 to 1 in May 2011 to 15.85 to 1 in May 2013.

Kern said the district expects to add staff to get the ratio below 16 to 1 after 2015, but noted the district has not seen negative effects as the ratio has increased.

"We haven't seen a slip in performance even though class sizes may have (increased)," he said.

Under the current five-year forecast, the district projects it will have an ending balance of $13.4 million in fiscal year 2017. It would be about $14 million in the red by the end of fiscal year 2018 without new money.

Superintendent Wade Lucas has said the district hopes to stay off the ballot until at least the end of the 2015-16 school year. The district could put off seeking a new levy even further if the state legislature would approve a school funding reform package more favorable to the district.

Kern said the district currently gets about $450 per pupil annually in funding from the state. He said charter schools and other private auxiliary schools get more than double that.

"They get $1,089 per pupil," he said. "They get even more than us as a public school."

Under legislation proposed by state Rep. Andy Brenner (R-Powell), the minimum state contribution per pupil would be raised to $1,000. The proposal, which Lucas and district residents testified in favor of before the legislature this year, would generate about $9 million in additional funding for the district annually.

Kern said Olentangy officials think the minimum should be raised to at least $1,089, so the district would get at least as much per student as charter schools.

With increased funding from the state, the district likely could return less often to the ballot.

"We are predominantly reliant on our local taxpayers," Kern said of the district's current funding situation.

According to district records, Olentangy schools received less than $10 million in funding from the state in each of the last five school years. In each of the last five years, the district received between $80 million and $120 million in funding from local revenue sources.

Kern said only about four cents of every state income tax dollar collected from the district's residents is returned to the district as per-pupil funding.

Comments