Pickerington Board of Education member Jim Brink is continuing his crusade to force change in the way the district predicts its budget expenses and revenues, this time calling for additional oversight from community members.

Pickerington Board of Education member Jim Brink is continuing his crusade to force change in the way the district predicts its budget expenses and revenues, this time calling for additional oversight from community members.

For nearly two months, Pickerington Local School District Treasurer Dan Griscom's district forecasts have been assailed by Brink, who was elected last November after a previous stint on the board from 2004-07.

The issue first came up publicly at a May 7 board meeting, in which Brink cited a district variance report comparing actual revenues and expenditures with projections made by Griscom for fiscal year 2012.

At that time, Brink noted the district had collected nearly $621,000 more in real estate taxes than had been forecast and said Griscom underestimated the amount of income taxes the district would receive in fiscal year 2012 by more than $325,000.

Since then, Brink has used each subsequent board meeting as occasion to further question the district's forecasting "methodology" and to point out other areas where the projections have missed the mark.

That included July 9, when he said the treasurer's office underestimated revenues by approximately $2.9 million.

"There's $2.9 million that we basically didn't know we had that can affect programs," Brink said. "That is just too far off, in my view."

The Ohio Department of Education requires school districts to provide five-year financial forecasts twice a year, and the purported discrepancies led Brink to suggest the treasurer's office is in need of outside help in developing those projections.

"I think it's time to get some people in the community involved in the forecast methods," he said.

"I've been making my case for two months on my issues with it, and I've actually been talking to (Griscom) about it for eight (months)."

As in past meetings, Brink's fellow board members have not held the same view, at least not publicly.

When the matter was raised May 7, board member Lisa Reade said she felt comfortable with Griscom's forecasts because they've helped ensure the district doesn't fund staff positions or programs that can't be sustained over time.

Board member Clay Lopez at that time added Griscom should continue to be conservative in his projections because, in addition to continued cuts in state funding from year to year, instability in the local housing and job markets could lead to dropoffs in key funding areas.

When Brink suggested July 9 Griscom's forecasts weren't providing a clear enough picture into the district's line-item expenses and revenues, board President Lori Sanders responded, "You can go (to the treasurer's office) if you want and find that."

Board member Cathy Olshefski added funding from the Ohio legislature, which in past years has provided more than 50 percent of the district's revenue through taxes and other resources, has dropped off in recent years, and frequently changes within a school year.

"In this very wonky environment of ours when the vast majority of our revenue is an unknown, we take what the state tells us and then they change it," Olshefski said.

"I think a 3-percent variance on the plus side just isn't that bad in this environment."

Brink did not indicate how community members or organizations would be selected to oversee or facilitate district budget forecasting, nor did he say if they would be paid.

He did, however, state those individuals or entities should be approved by the board.

While board support of Brink's thoughts seems shaky, his comments did resonate with several community members who attended the July 9 meeting and applauded his remarks.

Those supporters included Jessica Gronowski, a parent in the district, who implored Brink to push on with his fight and said improper forecasting might have played a part in the board's decision in January 2011 to trim approximately $1.3 million from the district's budget by cutting 19 music, art, physical education and media technology teachers from the payroll and changing how the district delivers education in those areas.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you for trying to hold this board accountable," Gronowski said.

"If (the district) had forecasted correctly, maybe we wouldn't have had to get rid of the specials," she said.

"If you forecasted correctly ... maybe we wouldn't have had to have all these levies."