Eagle Eye on Education: Culture of accountability includes focus on finances
As our school year comes to a close, we can all step off of the roller coaster ride we endured due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and take a much-needed break.
The end of the school year also provides the opportunity to update our entire community on the state of our school finances.
Debt refunding saves our taxpayers millions
Due to record-low interest rates, the New Albany-Plain Local Schools administration and school board actively pursued refunding (refinancing) opportunities for two of our bond issuances approved by our taxpayers in 2012 and 2013.
While adhering to government-finance best practices for net present-value savings, we went to market to compete to lower the interest rates of this existing debt to save our taxpayers money. As a result, we lowered our interest rates and generated total gross savings of $11.7 million.
Five-year forecast improves
The district has updated our five-year financial forecast with all of the known variables for submission to the Ohio Department of Education as required by May 31.
Real-estate revenue collections illustrate an increase in commercial values, public-utility personal-property values and TIF payments which positively impact our forecast. And delinquent tax payments did not see the negative impact expected due to the pandemic resulting in higher than expected real-estate-tax collections. Although future school funding remains a legislative debate, the governor also reinstated a portion of the funding reductions made at the beginning of the school year.
Based upon the due diligence of our staff and administration, utility, overtime and other personnel expenditures to date are lower than projected.
As a result of the revenue and expenditure changes from last October, the district is now projecting a $6 million positive ending cash balance in the fifth year of our updated forecast.
Barring the unknown, this sound financial forecast will not require us to seek any new operating levy support until 2024, which will be well over a decade since new operating taxes were approved for our schools.
Capital repairs and replacements continue to sustain the learning campus
Although the academic school year is wrapping up for students and teachers, our summer work to maintain our district campus will now begin.
During summer 2021, capital repairs and replacements include repairs and replacements impacting HVAC systems, concrete, painting, lighting, asphalt and infrastructure.
These capital repairs and replacements are competitively procured and funded by the 1.25 mill 5-year permanent-improvements levy approved in 2017 that generates approximately $1.17 million annually. The board and administration also forecast $1.3 million annually from the general-revenue fund toward these necessary repairs and replacements to sustain our schools.
A revised 10-year capital-improvements plan is being developed by the administration to outline the expected capital repair and improvement projects and their estimated costs for board and community presentation this summer.
The district’s 5-year permanent-improvements levy will expire Dec. 31, 2022. The board will engage in public dialogue in the coming months to confirm if this permanent-improvements levy to maintain our school facilities should appear to our taxpayers for vote in November 2022 and for what millage amount.
The board, administration, faculty and staff are committed to creating a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student. Our school district is thankful for our community’s continued partnership and financial support of our schools and its commitment to our students academically, operationally and structurally.
The New Albany-Plain Local School District is financially sound.
Rebecca Jenkins is the chief financial officer and treasurer for the New Albany-Plain Local School District.