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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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The Oregon City Schools board will not have to submit a spending plan to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) now that voters passed an operations levy in the November election.

District treasurer Jane Fruth would have been required to submit the plan had the levy not passed due to an expected deficit next year.

“Because the levy passed, we’ll be able to resubmit our five-year forecast,” said Fruth at the last school board meeting in November. “Unfortunately, with the previous forecast, we were showing a deficit in the third year, which we were going to have to send a spending plan to ODE. This eliminates that. I just have to submit the updated five-year forecast. And that should take care of it. So we’ll be off the hook with ODE because we’re in the black again.”

The 3.95-mill operations levy passed by a wide margin – 62.51 percent to 37.49 percent. It was the first time the district was able to get an operations levy passed since 2008.

Last year, the district tried to get a 5.9-mill levy passed, but voters defeated the measure. Voters last month were faced with cuts in extracurricular activities and the transfer of vocational schooling from the district to Penta County Vocational School if the levy didn’t pass.

In addition to monies from the levy, the district is expecting funds from the Oregon Clean Energy natural gas project, said Fruth.

“We cannot put it in the forecast yet because the timing is wrong. But it is something we are looking towards benefiting the schools,” said Fruth.

She also noted that the five year forecast is a “moving target” because the Legislature has made some additional adjustments to the tangible personal property tax receipts, as it has in the past.

“It’s a modest impact at this point. There will be some additional changes in the five-year forecast,” she said.

Senate Bill 208 restores 96 percent of the tangible personal property tax reimbursements taken out of the 2017 state budget and adjusts the phase-out process.

Fruth also said she would like the district to get involved in the Treasurer’s checkbook program for improved transparency with the public.

“Many of our neighboring districts are getting involved. Unless there are objections from the board, it seems it’s a good idea to start uploading our information – additional transparency beyond what we already have on the web for taxpayers,” she said.

The checkbook program, or Treasurer’s Transparency Project, is designed to make government more open and accountable to taxpayers by allowing Ohioans to follow their tax dollars and see how public money is being spent. The goal of the project is to shine a light on the true costs of government so that taxpayers and their elected representatives can make more informed decisions on state spending.

“Hopefully, our city will get involved,” said Fruth.

School Board President Carol Molnar asked if there was a lot of work involved in the program.

“It’s a file we will upload from our state software. We don’t have that ready yet. I have to get board approval. But it will be something we will be doing as part of our month end close,” she said.

 

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