Reynoldsburg schools can expect to lose at least $355,000 -- possibly as much as $800,000 -- in real estate tax collections this year, according to district treasurer Mitch Biederman.

Reynoldsburg schools can expect to lose at least $355,000 -- possibly as much as $800,000 -- in real estate tax collections this year, according to district treasurer Mitch Biederman.

The lower amount is only from Franklin County's real estate tax collections. Biederman said the numbers from Licking and Fairfield counties aren't in yet, but he estimates the total loss to the district could be more than $800,000.

"This is not a good sign, and final numbers from Licking County and Fairfield County have yet to come in, but for Licking County I'm estimating $200,000 to $230,000 are still outstanding," Biederman said.

"That said, it appears we're going to be down about $800,000 from original estimates submitted to the board way back at the beginning of the fiscal year (July 1, 2007)."

Overall, Biederman had originally estimated the district would collect $17,201,150 from real estate taxes in fiscal year 2007. He has now lowered that to $16,400,000.

Rick McGivern, a settlement officer with the Franklin County Auditor's Office, said he isn't sure collections will be down as much as Biederman expects.

"I don't think it will be as much as $355,000," he said. "I cannot get the exact numbers now, but I can tell you their gross collections are down and have come in a little lower this year, first half versus first half of last year.

"That doesn't mean the money will never be collected from homeowners after a certain period of time. We have what is called a tax lien sale and the treasurer's office will sell those liens to collection companies that will try to collect."

Biederman said the lower tax collections are most likely because of three things.

"It's really pretty straightforward," he said. "It has to do with refunds, which is basically properties being revalued, delinquencies, or payments that have not been made from real estate taxes and foreclosures." Biederman said the district has experienced a 4-percent growth in real estate tax collections each year over the past 10 years, but that didn't happen this year.

Based on recent collections, he does not think he can include that growth estimate in his financial projections. As a result, he is revising the district's five-year financial forecast, which will be ready to present to the board of education at its May meeting.

"There is not a whole lot you can do I have to redo the five-year forecast based on these numbers somehow, and get a grip on the long-term effect it will have on our collections," Biederman said.

"Nothing is in stone yet and it will still be estimations, but I'm probably going to get a little more conservative," he said. "I'm probably going to forecast a lower revenue growth than I have in the last 10 years I've been here."

Biederman said what can be controlled is expenditures but controlling revenue flow is more difficult.

"The only thing I can do is try to get a handle on what I think the collections are going to be, but this right now is not a good sign," he said.

Biederman said of the three counties included in the district for real estate tax collections, Franklin County's share is the largest.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said he wonders if this is the sign of a trend. "We have not seen that in the past, and according to Mitch, we've have an average of a 4-percent increase in real estate tax collections every year," Dackin said.

"It's unnerving in that it creates a scenario that our revenue stream is even less predictable," he said. "Mitch has been historically accurate with his predictions, but when you throw that kind of a change into it, it raises issues of is this really reflective of what's going on in the economy?

"The bottom line is, we're going to have to spend less," Dackin said.

dowen@thisweeknews.com