The Press Newspaper
Genoa schools may need to put an operating levy on the ballot this fall.
Memorial Day has come and gone and school districts across the state, including Genoa, remain in flux regarding finances.
“We were under the impression that the state would have something for us by the Memorial Day holiday,” Superintendent Dennis Mock said, regarding the state’s biennial budget that’ll take effect July 1.
The Genoa school board has directed Treasurer Bill Nye to update the district’s financial situation for the June meeting as well as available options.
“An operating levy is something we are seriously considering but nothing has been decided yet,” Mock said.
And nothing really can be done until the state makes its move, Nye said.
By law, school district treasurers must submit five-year forecasts in May.
“My statement will stand in June. It’s as useful as it can be for now. We cannot do a lot right now. We’re kind of in a holding pattern. Fifty-five percent of our budget comes from the state,” Nye said.
A year ago, Genoa schools spent just over $10.8 million for daily operating costs, Nye said. The cost for this fiscal year, which comes to a close on June 30, is expected to run close to $10.5 million.
Salaries and fringe benefits account for more than 80 percent of the school budget.
“When $4 out of $5 go toward wages and benefits, we look at that. But we’ve made a lot of cuts already there. And we’ve looked at purchase contracts, security contracts, water usage, gas, anything that can save us some money,” Nye said.
At present, state aid amounts to $5,732 per pupil. Some of the proposed state budget changes could slash that figure to $5,000 per pupil, the treasurer said.
It’s been eight years since Genoa administrators have gone to the voters for operating revenue.
Over the last five years, the school district has weathered a wave of budget hits that have caused a serious strain on daily operations. Some of them include the loss of tangible personal property taxes and home foreclosures.
And the coinciding reductions in state aid have forced the district to cut staff and programs. Under the education plan proposed by the administration of Gov. John Kasich, Genoa schools have been labeled “a guaranteed school.”
“That means we will get no more or no less in funding for two years,” Mock said.
Currently the budget bill is being discussed in Columbus in various House and Senate committees. The final version will be sent to a House/Senate conference committee and then the final budget will be approved by the governor in late June.
One thing that won’t change in the new school year at Genoa is the structure of the Future Farmers of America program.
Earlier this year, the school board was considering staff reduction in the high school program, Mock confirmed.
Laura Sheahan, a mother of children involved in the FFA program, had appealed to the board to reconsider during one of their spring meetings.
Both teachers will remain on staff, Mock said.
Along that line, the school board also took a stand in the spring against a state push to forward state funding to private schools.
Gov. Kasich’s biennial budget (House Bill 59) proposes to expand the EdChoice Scholarship Program through two new options that will significantly increase the number of public-funded vouchers for students to attend private school.
A change in the kindergarten and first-grade attendance at private schools noted in the bill could divert some $25 million to private schools, according to the resolution passed by the Genoa board.
Genoa board members oppose the diversion of public funds to private schools and directed the treasurer to send the official letter of opposition to the governor’s office and the legislature.
Still, the schools cannot advance with their plans for the 2013-14 school year without the state’s budget directive.
“I understand that they can’t rush. In the mean time, like I said, we are in a holding pattern. We can’t even make a plan to go ahead with a levy,” Nye explained.
And as far as superintendents across the state are concerned, the state is cutting it pretty close.
To get a levy on the fall ballot, school district personnel have to get the paperwork filed by Aug. 7 with their local board of elections.
“There’s a lot to be done to get to that point and not a lot of time to get there,” Nye said.