The fiscal year ended with a roughly $4.2 million cash reserve in the Wellington Schools’ general fund, according to district treasurer Tina Gabler.
In a five-year financial forecast, she said the district essentially broke even over the past fiscal year, bringing in $26,654 more than was spent.
Last October, Gabler projected the district would finish the year with $4.5 million in cash. But $250,000 in state funding cuts due to declining enrollment took a slice out of that amount, she said.
As it stands, the district has enough cash on hand to operate for 118 days, which falls above the 60 to 80 days recommended by the Ohio Department of Education.
When Gabler was hired to replace Michael Pissini as treasurer at the end of fiscal year 2016, the district had enough money to operate for 110 days.
”They were deficit spending by $312,000 in 2015,” she said in a follow-up interview. “The big layoffs that year led to the district starting to get back on track the following year and feeling a bit of relief. It’s important to know that every possible measure was taken before (the staffing cuts) took place. The layoffs were horrible but they were a necessary evil that had to occur. Many, many cuts were made before any personnel cuts. Spending on supplies and materials went from $500,000 to $300,000 to $280,000.”
Projected margins remain narrow over the next few years.
For fiscal year 2019, the district expects to bring in $13.47 million and spend $13.13 million. The following year sees $13.54 million in revenue and $13.53 million in spending.
Deficit spending begins to creep up in the forecast starting in 2021 when the Wellington Schools are expected to spend $13.95 million and bring in $13.61 million.
Deficit spending nearly doubles in 2022 to an estimated $695,000 in the red.
Gabler said those numbers are subject to change.
“We’ll have a new governor and the governor drives the budget,” she said. “We took a $500,000 hit over two years through the state budget. Will the governor come in and reinstate that or will they impose even more hits on us? We just don’t know. It’s looking into a crystal ball.”
Deficit spending has been avoided in the district since fiscal year 2015 when a series of drastic staffing cuts were made. At that time, the general fund balance had dipped to just over $2.4 million.
Columbus-based META Solutions and Gabler’s office have also corrected numerous discrepancies in enrollment numbers reported to the state, which has returned roughly $200,000 to the district. Upcoming increases in Lorain County’s property valuations will spell another $50,000 of revenue.
Nearly $620,000 was spent on permanent improvement measures over this fiscal year such as the installation of new LED light poles at the Dukes football stadium.
No permanent improvement levy is on the books in the district but officials, including Gabler and superintendent Ed Weber, have said a 1.95-mill levy would be ideal and generate about $400,000 per year.
There are no concrete plans at this time to put that measure before voters.
“I think you have to consider what would be on the ballot with you,” Gabler said. “The village has a tax increase on this year and the JVS has a levy. Is this the right time for us? I don’t know. You have to consider all of that and where you’re at in your own cash position. Some people think we should do it now when we have money and some think we should wait until we spend all of it. It seems like the board thinks we shouldn’t put one more thing on our plate for right now.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.