By 2022, the Olentangy Local School District is expected to be educating more than 22,000 students and likely will need more money to do so.

The Olentangy school board heard the first reading of the 2018 edition of the five-year forecast at its April 26 meeting. It is expected to be adopted at the May 17 board meeting.

Schools are required to complete five-year forecasts and submit them to the Ohio Department of Education twice annually, in the spring and fall.

Without additional funding, the district is projected to be in the red in a few years.

Only about 6 percent of Olentangy's $231 million budget comes from the state of Ohio, said Emily Hatfield, the district's treasurer. Because the district has higher-than-average property values and household incomes, Ohio caps its funding, she said.

"It's very important for our community to understand that we are a locally funded district," Hatfield said. "We want to continue to have that conversation and point out that is our reality and our funding situation."

At current spending and revenue rates, it's forecasted that by 2021 the district would have enough money on hand to cover only about three months of expenses.

"In fiscal year 2019, we begin spending more than we bring in," Hatfield said. "That carries forward for each of the remaining years in the forecast. This is a (budget) line that we like to look at when we talk about operating dollars."

If the district puts an operating levy on the ballot in 2020, "we would collect and have those funds available in 2021," Hatfield said.

There are a "number of unknowns" that could impact the district's financial health, including three state budget cycles, board member Julie Wagner Feasel said.

The other unknown is enrollment.

The district currently serves about 20,000 students. By the 2021-22 school year, enrollment is expected to top 22,000 students.

"Our enrollment trend is a key factor in our five-year forecast," Hatfield said.

Preschool and special education are both "populations that continue to grow for Olentangy," Hatfield said.

Those programs typically have smaller student-to-teacher ratios, making them more expensive than traditional classrooms.

The district has been helped by an overall increase in property values. That, combined with other income, including investments and collections, increased revenue this year by $10.5 million over original projections, Hatfield said.

Also at last week's board meeting, members approved 1,421 seniors for graduation, marking the largest class in district history.

All three Olentangy high schools will hold graduation ceremonies May 20.

The next board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. May 17 at district headquarters, 7840 Graphics Way, Lewis Center.

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