Fiscal year 2017 came to a close June 30, leaving Whitehall schools closer to a balanced ledger than its leaders predicted last July.

"We are still spending more than we are taking in ... but our revenue was greater than we expected," said district Treasurer Steve McAfee.

That means the district should be able to wait until at least 2019 before seeking an operating levy, McAfee said.

Voters last approved an operating levy in 1995.

The district will borrow against its cash reserve to balance the budget, McAfee said.

Ohio Revised Code requires public school districts to submit a five-year financial forecast to county auditors each year by Oct. 31.

Similarly, a revised five-year plan is required to be submitted between April 1 and May 31 each year.

Whitehall's revised five-year financial forecast shows a nearly $1 million increase in general-fund revenue for fiscal year 2017.

The original five-year financial forecast that board members approved in October 2016 estimated general-fund expenses of $38.8 million and general-fund revenue of $37.4 million, resulting in a projected deficit of $1.4 million for fiscal year 2017.

But the revised five-year financial forecast estimates general-fund expenses of $38.7 million -- only about $100,000 less than originally projected -- and general-fund revenue of $38.4 million, or nearly $1 million more than estimated at the start of the fiscal year.

"The difference is our property-tax settlements were better than we projected, both our delinquent collections and our current collections," McAfee said.

Based on trends and other considerations, the district makes assumptions on revenues and expenses, then makes adjustments at each revision, McAfee said.

"We collected property tax at a higher rate this year than we projected," he said.

As a result, the district's cash reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 is projected at almost $10.7 million, up from the $9.8 million that was originally projected.

The revised five-year financial forecast also significantly recalculates the district's cash reserve at the end of fiscal year 2021 -- the final year of the forecast.

The original forecast projected a cash reserve of about $650,000, while the revised plan increases that to more than $6 million.

"One of our biggest assumptions is state funding," which for Whitehall schools is capped at 7.5 percent, McAfee said.

He said his revised projections assume receiving 7.5 percent each year instead of about 5 percent, the figure that was used to calculate cash reserves in the original five-year financial forecast.

The amount of state funding the district receives is a critical component of its annual budget and the five-year forecast, McAfee said, and also is a factor in determining when to seek a levy.

"It makes all the difference in the world," McAfee said.

But there is no "crystal ball" to know the amount of funding Whitehall schools will receive in the future.

"We plug in our best guesses and monitor the trends (while) communicating with our legislators how important state funding is to our district," McAfee said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo