Worthington News

Worthington City Schools

Schare: Levy still appropriate despite brighter five-year forecast

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The budget for the Worthington City School District looks better now than it did in May, but board members say that does not negate the need for a levy.

When school board members decided to place an operating on the November ballot, they based their decision on a five-year forecast projecting a $17 million deficit at the end of 2016.

New figures released Oct. 22 show the 2016 deficit at $13 million.

The school board is required by the state to release five-year forecasts in May and October.

When the board decided to place an incremental levy of 4.9 mills, 5.9 mills and 6.9 mills on the ballot, it was only after many lengthy discussions about the size of the levy needed.

If approved, taxpayers will pay an additional 4.9 mills in 2013, 5.9 mills in 2014 and 6.9 mills in 2015 and beyond.

Board member Marc Schare said he welcomed the news but still believes the board made the correct decision on the size and timing of the levy.

The change "certainly validates the board's decision to go with the more taxpayer-friendly incremental levy as opposed to the more expensive alternatives that were under consideration at the time," he said.

The new forecast shows a $33 million surplus at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, compared to the projected $30.6 million surplus projected in May.

Revenues in 2012 were $115.7 million, compared to the projected $116.6. Expenditures were $115.7 million, compared to the projected $117.8 million.

Much of the savings are because of the contracts signed by the teachers union last year, board member David Bressman said. Salary increases were frozen in both base and steps for 2012.

Schare said he continues to have concerns about some of treasurer Jeff McCuen's income projections in the five-year forecast. He said he believes the treasurer should have included some revenue from casinos.

McCuen said he believes the state would not pass along tax revenues from the new casinos but instead would roll the money into whatever state foundation formula it determines next year.

Schare also pointed out that the forecast projects that all tangible-personal-property-tax reimbursements would be phased out despite that state law still shows the district receiving reimbursements. Schare conceded that the future of TPP tax reimbursements is "guesswork."

The forecast also does not account for employee retirements, which could be considerable in number and save the district money this year.

"A super-conservative estimate would be 30 retirements, but the number could be twice that high," Schare said.

Even if the savings from retirements had been included in the forecast, it would not negate the need for a levy, Schare said. It would increase the margin of error, though.

The new budget includes money for additional staff members that will be needed because enrollment is beginning to increase. That trend is expected to continue through 2017. Enrollment is projected to increase from 9,229 in 2011 to 9,835 in 2017. The forecast shows three new positions added in 2014, one in 2015 and two in 2016.

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