Upper Arlington City Schools treasurer Andy Geistfeld provided the board of education with an updated five-year forecast during the board's Oct. 24 work session, and said it is likely the district will ask voters to approve a levy in November 2012.
Upper Arlington City Schools treasurer Andy Geistfeld provided the board of education with an updated five-year forecast during the board’s Oct. 24 work session, and said it is likely the district will ask voters to approve a levy in November 2012.
“We made a commitment that we would not come back to the voters until we needed to,” Geistfeld said. “In November 2012, we will come back, and we will need it.”
He last updated board members on the five-year forecast in May, when the state’s biennium budget had not yet been finalized. The budget was approved in June, with funding decreases affecting Upper Arlington in three categories: tangible personal property tax reimbursements, public utility reimbursements and state fiscal stabilization funds.
These funding decreases will result in a reduction of approximately $2.2 million in state revenue in fiscal year 2012 — a decrease of about 30 percent when compared with fiscal year 2011.
This loss is “much more precipitous than we had planned,” said board president Margie Pizzuti.
“That understates it,” said board member Bob Arkin. “We’re falling off a cliff.”
The approved biennium budget also included a subsidy for all districts rated excellent or excellent with distinction. For its excellent with distinction rating, UA will receive approximately $99,000 in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, Geistfeld said.
According to the forecast, real estate taxes accounted for approximately 78 percent of the district’s total general fund operating revenue in 2011, a percentage that is expected to increase as other sources of revenue continue to decrease.
“There are basically three ways to increase real estate revenue: new construction, reappraisal and levies,” Geistfeld said.
The district is landlocked, with the majority of new construction occurring primarily as remodels of existing homes. Geistfeld has projected an increase in assessed valuation of 0.5 percent, which will add approximately $270,000 per year in additional revenue.
He also forecast a 2-percent reduction in residential reappraisals, which will decrease revenue collected in calendar year 2012 by approximately $300,000. Although this is “not an astronomical loss,” Geistfeld said, “it’s still a loss.”
He provided board members with a chart comparing UA’s school tax rates with other districts in Franklin County. For 2011, UA collects $1,443 on each $100,000 of county-appraised property value. Geistfeld said this tax rate puts UA “in the middle of the pack,” with Bexley, New Albany, Westerville, Hilliard and Dublin all collecting at higher rates.
“It’s not our tax rate; it’s the value of our homes that drives the tax amount,” said superintendent Jeffrey Weaver. “People find that very hard to believe.”
Geistfeld said there has been some discussion of a mid-year revision to the biennium budget.
“As changes occur in funding formulas, higher property value districts usually lose out,” he said.
Ultimately, Geistfeld said, the district will begin spending in excess of revenue in fiscal year 2012. Once that happens, “the fund balance will diminish quickly,” he said. The district will see its first negative fund balance in fiscal year 2015, and by fiscal year 2016, the deficit will exceed $17 million.
“If a levy doesn’t pass in November 2012, we will be implementing budget changes,” Geistfeld said.
In other business Monday, board members approved a resolution in opposition to House Bill 136. The “School Choice” bill would expand the availability of vouchers for students to attend private or parochial schools as long as they meet the family income standard of $95,000 or less.
“The operation of the proposed program would take dollars directly from the already financially beleaguered public school districts, resulting in fewer resources for the education of the remaining students,” the resolution said.