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Woodridge forecast shows need for levy renewal next year

10/17/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

The Woodridge Local School District is nearing the end of its five-year operating levy that will need to be renewed in 2014, or the district will be $3.5 million in debt by 2015-16.

That’s one of the findings in Woodridge’s October five-year financial forecast presented by Treasurer Deanna Levenger at the Board of Education’s Oct. 15 meeting.

The five-year forecast is a financial management tool that is required of districts by the Ohio Revised Code, Levenger said. Districts must submit the report to the Ohio Department of Education by Oct. 31 and an update by April 30 each year.

The report must include the last three years’ actual revenues and expenditures and projections for the next five years based on assumptions about the future. Levenger said only the first two years of predictions are usually reliable, since expense and revenue numbers change so much.

She said that now, in fiscal year 2014, 71 percent of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes.

The biggest costs currently, she said, are salaries (55 percent to 56 percent), benefits (23 percent) and purchased services (15 percent). Purchased services include such things as insurance, repairs, electricity, natural gas, water/sewer, open enrollment and community/charter schools.

She is projecting 5 percent growth every year, she said, because of the increasing Woodridge enrollment.

In 2009, Woodridge passed a five-year, 11.37-mill levy that combined two emergency levies. That will expire next year. Without its renewal, Levenger said the district would make it through fiscal year (FY) 2015 in the black but be $3.5 million in the red by FY 2016 and $18 million in debt by FY 2018.

The school board is aiming levy renewal preparations for the May 2014 ballot. If the levy is not passed in 2014, the district cannot collect the funds in 2015, she said.

In other financial business, the board approved making “in-lieu-of” payments for transportation to the parents of 133 Woodridge-area students who attend other schools. If the student attends a school that is too far away to be practical for Woodridge to bus him or her, the district must pay the parents around $200 per student per year, said Levenger. The amount, determined by the state, varies from year to year, she said.

This is a state requirement; Woodridge spent about $38,000 in in-lieu-of payments last year and was then reimbursed by the state, she said.

But both Levenger and Superintendent Walter Davis said they were not sure the state would continue to reimburse that “impracticality” cost this year, due to changes made in Ohio House Bill 59 last summer.

Davis said he was “studying this intently” and felt the district needed to re-examine its policy on transportation impracticality. Most of the 133 students receiving the payments go to private or parochial schools in the Greater Akron area, including 60 who go to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

Davis said the district also is planning to study its facilities to plan for future growth. One of the school board’s five goals, he said, is to develop and implement a master facilities plan for the four school buildings.

The district’s architectural firm, Braun and Steidl Inc., helped with the security updates at all four buildings over the summer and will help the district with the assessment and planning, Davis said.

Starting in January, officials will spend five to six months looking at demographic trends and gathering data and community input, to “reach the biggest cross section possible,” Davis said.

The district needs a new facilities plan because “we can’t continue to operate as we are today because of the need for space,” with the district’s continually growing enrollment, he said. For example, the high school, where the school board meetings are held, has more students than it was intended to hold, he said.

The board and district officials will begin developing the master plan next summer, he said.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Woodridge High School Library, 4440 Quick Road.

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