School board members said they will wait until June to decide whether to ask Hilliard City Schools voters to consider an operating levy in November.
But based on comments made at the April 27 board meeting, it appears they might be leaning against requesting a levy in 2020, with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continuing.
“This is not the year to be doing that,” board member Paul Lambert said.
Without it, the district will begin deficit spending in fiscal 2021, ending June 30, 2021, according to treasurer Brian Wilson.
Without a levy in November, the district will spend at about a $5 million deficit in fiscal 2021 and at about a $10 million deficit in fiscal 2022.
Deficit spending occurs when expenses exceed revenue for a given period of time, Wilson said.
Typically, Hilliard seeks a levy the year before deficit spending begins, “but these are different times,” Wilson said.
The district has a cash reserve to cover the deficit for the next several years, Wilson said, but it will require a greater-than-usual millage amount when the time comes to seek a levy.
“The longer we wait, the bigger the levy,” Lambert said.
The district still will need funding even though it is operating differently during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lambert said 85% of the district’s operating costs are for personnel.
Although the district does save a little money from expenses no longer being made during the pandemic, such as fuel for its fleet of buses, it has little impact, he said.
The millage amount the district would need if a November request were made or delayed has not been determined.
Wilson said a millage decision could be made after the district learns the amount of state funding it would receive, an answer district leaders should learn by the end of May.
The pandemic also will require the district to reorganize its master facilities plan, Deputy Superintendent Mike McDonough said.
With the plan always considered “a living document,” the uncertainty of when the district would seek its next bond request will require the district to put such considerations as renovations and building replacements “on hold,” he said.
“But our aging facilities will need to be addressed,” McDonough said.
The district’s cash reserve could be a source for some of those projects, Lambert said, adding that the district can even be “opportunistic” to get some projects completed at a lower cost during an economic recession.
Meanwhile, the district is working on scenarios for how to educate students when the next school year begins in August.
Superintendent John Marschhausen said the picture should be clearer – as much as it can be – by the end of May.
One potential scenario includes half of the district’s nearly 17,000 students attending classes on alternating days, two days a week, and reserving the fifth weekday for intervention, Marschhausen said.
The district also is preparing for an unknown number of parents and students who will be provided the opportunity to receive a 100% online education, even if students can return to school buildings by August.
If families might not be comfortable sending students back to buildings – if they even are open at the start of the next school year – the district will develop a plan this summer to allow for students to learn exclusively online if a family opts to do so, Marschhausen said previously.
Additional considerations include creating protocols to switch, as necessary, from blended online and in-class learning to exclusive online instruction if flare-ups of the coronavirus occur, as many health experts have predicted, he said.
Other changes are in the offing.
No overnight student trips to any destinations will be scheduled during the 2020-21 school year, Marschhausen said.
“The hardest one to swallow is the (annual) eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C.,” he said.
In addition to the health concerns during the pandemic, Marschhausen said, some travel agencies already are seeking deposits for trips scheduled next year. He said he is aware some parents were unable to receive refunds for trips that have already been canceled this year.
Marschhausen said the district’s legal counsel is working on language to include in future trip agreements that would prevent the circumstances some families faced this year.