Upper Arlington School Notes: District's commitment to fiscal responsibility is paying off

Paul Imhoff
Guest Columnist
Paul Imhoff

An important part of everything we do is our commitment to sound fiscal management.   

We take our community’s investment in our schools very seriously, and we are committed to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Ensuring we use our funding wisely is the best way to ensure our students can benefit from the high-quality learning experiences they deserve. 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share that Upper Arlington Schools has again earned the Auditor of State Award for excellence in financial reporting. This recognizes our commitment to effective and accountable financial practices for our community and follows the clean audit opinion the district received after its annual external, third-party review of financial records and practices. 

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Since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago, the district has been doing everything possible to respond to the challenging economic situation facing school districts across the country and community members here at home.   

In June 2020, the board of education decided to delay a potential request for additional operating funds.   

This wasn’t an easy decision, and the board put in place a cost-savings plan that included a hiring freeze for most new positions. Since that time, the district has found ways to achieve approximately $4.6 million in cost savings.   

In addition, the board made the decision to dip into our budget reserve. The district has a long-standing practice of maintaining a conservative budget reserve to help stabilize the budget in the event of a future crisis. Members of the board felt that the economic challenges presented by the pandemic met the standards for tapping into this reserve. 

Now, nearly a year later, several other factors are helping stabilize our budget. Property valuations, insurance premiums and federal stimulus funds also have helped our financial forecast in recent months, putting us in a position to consider the timing of our next request for operating funds. 

During the board meeting in March, which is available on the UA Schools YouTube channel, Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld reviewed all this financial information and recommended waiting until the fall of 2022 to return to the ballot. The board voted in support of this recommendation. 

As we move forward, we are keeping a close eye on several things that may impact our finances. That includes the proposed state budget and state funding for our schools, as well as revenue generated by local property valuations. We also continue to monitor our projected enrollment growth, and we expect that likely will be a significant factor in the financial future of our district over the next decade.  

We are committed to continuing to seek out efficiencies that preserve the overall student experience while also responsibly planning for all possible scenarios in the coming years. 

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools. Follow him on Twitter @imhoffpual. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.