Members of the Archbold Area School Board discussed the possibility that the district may need to ask voters to approve a levy as early as 2013.
That was part of the discussion at the Monday night board meeting.
Christine Ziegler, district treasurer, presented her state-required five-year financial forecast, which shows the district will end the current fiscal year spending more money than it takes in.
At the end of the year, the district will have about $4.5 million in cash reserve on hand.
Her predictions show that without new money coming in, expenses will continue to exceed revenues through fiscal year 2015. At the end of fiscal year 2015, on June 30, 2015, Ziegler anticipates the reserve will be about $84,000.
Ziegler told board members state auditors recommend the district maintain enough cash reserve to be able to operate for three months. For Archbold schools, that’s about $3 million.
Her forecast predicts the reserve will be about $3.2 million by the end of fiscal year 2013 (June 30, 2013), and about $1.76 million at the end of fiscal year 2014 (June 30, 2014).
“I don’t see any huge changes for us. In calendar year 2014, it will be critical. Hopefully, we’ll generate some additional revenue in 2014 that we can be collecting in 2015,” she said.
Board members discussed the best time to put a tax levy before voters. Among possible dates was November 2013, or early in 2014.
David Deskins, district superintendent, said the board essentially had three options: plan for massive reductions in spending, seek a levy for the entire shortfall, or some combination of spending reductions and additional revenue.
Deskins said the need for additional revenue should not be a surprise.
When voters passed a 4.91- mill, $1.1-million emergency property tax levy in 2006, it was anticipated the board would be back to the voters for more money in 2009.
They renewed the emergency levy in May 2011.
Deskins said, “We have been very good as a district at being careful with our dollars.”
The district will be able to stretch its money through 2014, eight years instead of three.
In a later interview, Deskins noted during 2006 and 2007, employees worked together to reduce expenses, trimming between $1.3 and $1.4 million. Part of the reductions came from eliminating programs and staff reductions.
“When you reduce costs that much over five years, that becomes pretty substantial,” he said.
“We continually look for opportunities to reduce costs.”
Just recently, school offi cials have been looking at the possibility of combining or changing school bus routes to reduce the total miles traveled, which will save on diesel fuel.
Ziegler said the district has been able to hold increases in expenses to 2% a year.
But, she said, the district has not seen its revenue increase by that amount.
Ziegler said the biggest unknown in the school finance picture is state funding.
Specifically, she mentioned the tangible personal property tax guarantee.
Over the years, the state legislature has phased out the tangible personal property tax, a tax on business equipment and inventory. Today, the only personal property taxes being collected are taxes on public utilities.
The legislature agreed to hold school districts “harmless”; that is, it guaranteed it would pay the district for what they lost from the end of tangible personal property tax collections.
For Archbold, that guarantee amounted to $2.2 million.
But for next year, the guaranteed payment is reduced by $200,000.
Ziegler said each year, the legislature discusses what to do about the guarantee. Each year, it continues to pay the guarantee, but at a reduced level.
Deskins said if state legislators decide to end guarantee payments, that will mean a loss of $2 million to the school district.
Since it took almost 5 mills in property tax to raise $1.1 million, it could take about 10 mills to raise an additional $2 million.–David Pugh
After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.–Author Unknown