Westerville City School District residents should expect to see a bond issue and possibly an operating levy on the ballot sometime in the next year.
Treasurer Nicole Marshall said the district has been working on a facilities master plan for the past few years, and she anticipates voters will be asked to approve a bond issue within the next 12 months to address needs.
"I have recommended to the board that we ask the voters to approve an operating levy at the same time and delay the collections on the operating levy by one year," she said.
Marshall said the district has done a great job for the taxpayers in managing the resources they provided as the schools emerged from a difficult financial situation several years ago.
"We are at a point, however, where we will need to consider appearing on the ballot to avoid entering deficit spending two fiscal years from now," she said.
When Superintendent John Kellogg joined the Westerville district in 2013, he said, the one thing he heard loud and clear is how the community went through a period of levy fatigue due to the number of ballot requests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Looking back, Kellogg said, the district was on the ballot 10 times from 1997 through 2006.
"A little later, as we began to emerge from significant budget reductions in 2012, we knew that it was critical for us to focus on restoring programs and services but to do so while attempting to strengthen the financial picture of our district," he said. "It's been seven years since we last needed to pass a new operating levy and 19 years since needing bond money for new schools."
Kellogg said he thinks the district has done a good job of strengthening finances, stretching resources and running schools within current means.
"As a result, we've avoided deficit spending at least six years longer than first expected," he said.
In her most recent five-year forecast that was due to the state of Ohio by May 31, Marshall said, conservative fiscal practices have allowed the district to avoid deficit spending for an additional year until fiscal year 2021.
She said much earlier forecasts indicated district spending could exceed revenue as soon as fiscal 2015.
However, even while rebuilding its programs and services from significant budget reductions several years ago, Marshall said, the district continued to stretch its resources.
"Deficit spending is common for school systems, given the way school funding works in Ohio," she said. "The fact that our district has been able to avoid deficit spending for six years longer than first expected and still put 75 percent of the budget directly into classroom instruction is truly amazing. It speaks volumes about the efforts that this board and administration have made to strengthen district finances."
Marshall said district expenditures are trending about $1 million less than projected mostly because of timing, which allows the district to delay those expenditures by another year.
She said revenue sources are trending slightly higher than expected.
"The combination of these factors means we should end the year with about $4 million more than projected in last October's forecast," Marshall said.
She said the district also has worked hard to take advantage of improved interest rates, which generated about $1 million more than anticipated in revenue.
However, the forecast continues to take a conservative approach to future revenue given the uncertainty of the state's next budget, she said.
Marshall said the district continues to maintain a $19 million reserve fund, which provides approximately 45 days of operating costs to address any unforeseen financial crises.