Worthington News

Guest column

School district's financial forecast shows stability

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Every May and October, the Ohio Department of Education requires an update of the five-year financial forecast of all public schools.

The purpose is to provide a planning tool for school boards to analyze the trends within the school district budget.

The forecast is a snapshot in time that changes as new information becomes known.

This fall, the Worthington Board of Education reviewed a very stable five-year financial forecast for the district. Much of this stability can be attributed to district's focus on conservative fiscal management and efficient budgeting, as well as the continual support of our generous voters and community. The latest forecast reflects the board's commitment to enacting a sensible and efficient budget for taxpayers while still protecting the classroom and the high-quality programs our community values.

The largest portion of our budget is designated for our teachers in the classroom, and the increase in those costs has been extremely modest.

Both salaries and insurance costs are increasing less than in previous years as a result of all staff members taking a salary freeze and paying more toward insurance, as well as a record numbers of retirements. In fact, 52 teachers retired last year alone.

Although the news was mostly positive, Worthington still faces some financial risks, especially regarding state funding.

The new state budget reflects an increase in funds to Worthington schools for this year and next, but when compared to fiscal year 2011, the state has decreased funding by $17 million over the past four years.

The majority of this loss is due to the reductions in the reimbursement for tangible personal property tax. No other school district in Franklin County is affected as much as Worthington when it comes to the loss of this local business tax. Our school district has avoided a financial cliff, thanks to the state's stable reimbursement during this budget for the loss of this local funding.

We can thank our local legislators for ensuring that the state funding stream remains intact for this biennium. However, these reimbursement payments are at risk of being eliminated each time the state enacts a new budget.

We will continue our work with our local state leaders to make sure this vital funding source is preserved.

This financial stability also comes at an important time as school districts increasingly face more state and federal mandates, including the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, the new teacher evaluation system and new testing and learning requirements.

Recent legislative action also has increased vouchers and has resulted in a loss of funding to Worthington City Schools.

The Worthington community has made it very clear that it wants a high-quality education for students at a great value.

We agree, and we have worked hard and in a very transparent way to communicate with our residents about the good news and the challenges we face.

We look forward to this continued dialogue and to deciding what it takes to maintain and protect excellence in both our community and schools.

Jeff McCuen is the treasurer for Worthington City Schools.

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