Hilliard City Schools' next levy request could come in 2022

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Hilliard City Schools' next operating-levy request could come as soon as 2022, according to district leaders.

However, a final decision is not expected until summer 2021.

“It’s too early to know the best approach, (but) I am confident we will hold off (on a levy request) until 2022,” board President Mark Abate said.

Board members had planned to place an operating-levy request on the November general-election ballot, but they reconsidered during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The district last sought an operating levy in 2016, when voters approved a 4.5-mill operating levy and a $50 million bond issue.

The Hilliard City Schools Central Office is at 2140 Atlas St. in Columbus.

At the time, district officials pledged to wait at least four years before seeking another levy.

“The goals of our last levy (in 2016) was for those funds to get us through four years of conservative spending with the intention of being on the ballot in the fall of 2020,” Abate said.

But board members decided in July to allow the Aug. 5 filing deadline for the Nov. 3 ballot to pass without taking action.

In late May, the fiscal 2021 budget projected the district would have a $5 million deficit. Spending reductions and other changes allowed the district to project the October five-year forecast with a $756,652 surplus for fiscal 2021, according to district treasurer Brian Wilson.

However, the district still is estimated to have a $3.6 million spending deficit in fiscal 2022 and a $9.2 million spending deficit in fiscal 2023, according to the five-year forecast.

The district’s estimated cash balance at the end of fiscal 2021 is $78.2 million. It is estimated to decrease to $74.6 million at the end of fiscal 2022 and $65.4 million at the end of fiscal 2023, according to the district’s five-year forecast.

Assuming the district waits until 2022 to seek an operating levy, Wilson said, “it is too early to tell” the amount that would be requested.

But Wilson said the district’s cash reserve allows leaders time to plot a course.

“What we have at the moment is the luxury of time,” he said.

Abate indicated the district has two basic approaches: a smaller levy in 2022 and another in 2024, or waiting until 2024 for a larger levy request.

“We like to be on the ballot during presidential elections,” Abate said.

Superintendent John Marschhausen shared that same view at a board meeting in October.

“Presidential elections have been successful for us,” Marschhausen said.

He said the primary and general election for the governor also would be options.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo