Administrators and board of education members of Westerville City Schools are faced with awkward questions as they work on a fiscal year 2010 budget -- whether they can expect a good return on delinquent property taxes, and whether or not the state legislature will come up with an answer for school funding.

Administrators and board of education members of Westerville City Schools are faced with awkward questions as they work on a fiscal year 2010 budget -- whether they can expect a good return on delinquent property taxes, and whether or not the state legislature will come up with an answer for school funding.

In a special board of education meeting June 22, district treasurer Scott Gooding presented revisions to the FY 2010 appropriations that included an additional $5.39-million in financial adjustments from previous budget projections.

The board is expected to vote on the budget at its June 29 meeting.

"We challenged ourselves to go back to the drawing board," Gooding said. "As a result of our efforts, we've been able to overcome significant revenue shortfalls created by the economy, including the $4.14-million in tax delinquencies over fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2010 that we discussed at the June 1 meeting."

To make the budget cuts, Gooding proposed reducing projected department budgets by $971,000; transferring a copier lease agreement to the capital improvement fund ($1.22-million); charging FY09 new/replacement equipment to the capital improvement fund ($217,000); holding vacant a curriculum coordinator position and an accountability and assessment position ($111,000), renegotiating the district's agreement with the Educational Service Center ($1-million); and incorporating one-time federal stimulus dollars for special education expenses ($1.3-million).

An increase in tax delinquencies hit the district with a combined total tax revenue loss for FY09 and FY10 of a little over $4-million, according to Gooding. The district projected in January that tax collections for the two fiscal years would be $187,515,349, but the new projections in May estimate that collection will be $183,372,834.

Gooding said that the problem with incorporating the delinquent taxes into a school budget isn't a question of if the money will come in, but of "how much" and "when."

Board members questioned whether the district should be more conservative in its budgeting process until hard numbers on tax returns and the legislature's school funding plans are in.

"I know that people have hope (regarding school funding), but we can't run a district on hope," said board member Kristi Robbins. "We have salaries to pay."

Superintendent Dan Good said that the district will keep looking for operational efficiencies, revenue enhancers and budgetary adjustments, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid a programmatic impact.

"Some of these measures have come at an operational cost and have forced us to rethink the way we do business," Good said. "There's a long-term benefit to going through such exercises, and I'm pleased to say that despite all of the financial reductions and adjustments we've made, we've been able to avoid any significant impact to our current academic program.

"How much longer we will be able to make that claim, I cannot say for certain."

The board will discuss the next fiscal year's budget further at 7:30 p.m. June 29 at Robert Frost Elementary School, 270 N. Spring Road, and is expected to vote on the budget.

lrice@thisweeknews.com