Spending cuts helped the Wellington Schools wade through a tough financial year and challenges still lie ahead, according to the district’s five-year forecast, presented at a May 17 board meeting.
Treasurer Michael Pissini points to fiscal year 2016 as the first in a while that Wellington will have more money coming in than going out — with a projected excess of revenue over expenditures of $637,916 and a certified cash balance of $2.87 million.
“This is primarily due to significant budget cuts made in (fiscal year) 2015,” wrote Pissini, “as well as decreased spending in the areas of purchased services, supplies and materials, and capital outlay.”
Yet the district needs to pass a levy or delve back into deficit spending again starting in fiscal year 2017, which will lead to a $558,926 deficit by the end of 2018.
Cuts in funding at the state level continue to put an enormous strain on public school districts.
This is something that could come into play for Wellington in 2019, when the school system projects new buses will be needed. Pissini expects that will contribute heavily in growing the school’s deficit to nearly $1.2 million in that year and $1.7 million in 2020.
“Five to seven years ago, school districts were reimbursed 90 percent of the cost of a bus by the state. Now we get nothing,” said Wellington Schools superintendent Dennis Mock. “That was one of the line item cuts to public schools that has put a true damper on transportation.”
Both Mock and Pissini said a permanent improvement levy would not be the ultimate solution to the district’s financial concerns but it would be a huge step in the right direction.
Currently, $150,000 is taken annually from the general fund to compensate for the lack of a PI levy.
“Right now, I would assume the current status quo for state funding in a closed door,” Mock said. “It’s made it difficult for school districts like Wellington that don’t have a permanent improvement levy. We just replaced an engine in a bus for $14,000. You have to keep them running and on the road but it presents great difficulty.”
“The district has no permanent improvement levy income other than the $500,000 dedicated to the support of the new middle school,” said Pissini. “This results in additional financial stress as the general fund bears the entire cost of all maintenance, repairs, and capital purchases.”
He added that the Wellington Schools are still currently guaranteed to receive $600,000 in state aid for the next two years.
“Losing this funding could be catastrophic for the district,” he said. “The damage from this being taken away would not just be limited to Wellington. Schools across the entire state would suffer a great deal. After talking with other treasurers and people from the Ohio Department of Education, I personally don’t think it will get taken away.”
Student enrollment numbers will also continue to play a huge role in budget projections and new students are actually up since 2013.
“We had the performance audit done, and we’re just entering the negotiations stemming from that,” said Mock. “These negotiations will directly affect the five-year budget. We want to make sure that we continue to keep our staffing in line with our student enrollment. Eighty percent of the cost in the district are salaries and benefits, so we have to make sure we continue to control those.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Treasurer Michael Pissini’s five-year forecast shows challenges for the years ahead.