The Whitehall City School District's financial outlook just got a bit brighter.
District treasurer Steve McAfee presented school board members with his latest five-year forecast last week for their approval.
According to McAfee, the district will extend its financial balance at least one more year than previously thought -- and likely longer -- thanks to a boost from the state.
"The most important thing to us is our state funding because it makes up the biggest part of our (revenue)," McAfee told board members Oct. 10. "It looks good now, but in two years, we'll see."
Although the district entered deficit spending last year, its cash balance is expected to last past fiscal year 2018, largely because of increased funding from the state, McAfee said.
According to information presented last week, 62 percent of the district's total revenue comes from the state. Under Ohio's new funding formula, the Whitehall City School District has fared well, receiving a 6.25-percent increase. In fact, under the new funding formula, the district should be getting even more state funds, but the increase was so great, the state put a cap on the amount that could be received because it cannot afford to pay out what the formula calls for, McAfee said.
According to the treasurer's five-year forecast, which the state requires twice a year, the district operated in deficit spending during fiscal year 2013, to the tune of nearly $1.8 million. But because of a $15 million balance (like savings in the bank), it will continue to stay afloat. In fact, McAfee said, he expects that balance to last several more years. In fiscal year 2018, the district should hold on to an $8.3 million balance despite continued deficit spending, he said.
With enrollment numbers climbing (and expected to continue to climb), McAfee told the board, the district must continue to be fiscally responsible. He reminded board members that staff members are now in their second year of a salary freeze and that the district hasn't seen any increases in insurance rates in the current fiscal year.
"We must continue to manage our budget carefully," McAfee said. "We must consider opportunities to operate more efficiently while working toward our goals."
Board president Walter Armes agreed, reminding everyone that the five-year forecast is a "living document" and could change with the next biennial budget.
The last time the Whitehall school district came to voters with a levy request was in 1995, when a 13-mill levy was approved. District officials promised taxpayers they would not return for another levy increase for at least 10 years.
That was 18 years ago.
The district also made a more recent pledge to Whitehall voters to not come back to taxpayers for any additional funding before the district's five new school buildings were completed. Whitehall-Yearling High School, the last of the five to be built, was officially dedicated last month.