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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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For some insight into how the area’s housing market is faring Jeff Carpenter need look no further than the local property tax receipts for the Lake Local School District.

It’s not a pretty picture: In fiscal year 2008, which began July 1, 2007, the district received about $6.2 million – roughly $685,000 more than the year before. But by fiscal year 2009 a drop in local tax revenue had begun and by the end of the year the district received only $6.04 million.

In the first half of fiscal year 2010, the district is $16,372 below where it was in 2009 in local revenues.

“The county auditor is telling us that property tax delinquencies among homeowners are three times higher than normal,” Carpenter, the school district’s treasurer, said last week. “It’s been showing up in our revenues and I’m sure other districts are seeing the same thing.”

The district’s earnings on invested funds have also been dwindling.

In 2008, Lake’s investments earned $229,493 when interest rates were in the range of 5 to 5.5 percent. In 2009, the district earned $123,833 as rates slid to between 2 and 3 percent. In the first half of 2010, Carpenter is projecting the district will earn less than $9,000 on investments receiving on average less than .02 percent.

Even with the State Treasury Asset Reserve (STAR) Ohio program, which allows local governments and schools to pool their revenues and then seek higher returns, yields this year so far are hovering near 0.05 percent, according to STAR figures.

And as Lake’s revenues drop, some costs have increased.

Carpenter said 10 district employees have joined Lake’s insurance plan after their spouses lost their jobs and he is projecting fees charged by the Wood County Educational Service Center, Northwest Ohio Computer Association, and Northwest Water and Sewer District will rise.

In addition, he recently submitted a report to the Lake school board that projects a gap of $1.4 million in 2011 between what it would cost Lake to fully implement the state’s evidence based funding model for education programs and what the district will likely receive from the state.

While school board members digest Carpenter’s financial projections, he also plans to meet informally with parent groups and representatives of the teachers’ union to keep them up-to-date on the situation and he said he plans to meet with members of the union representing other staff members.

Barring a quick turn-around in present trends, it’s possible board members may opt to ask voters this year for additional revenues before two existing tax levies – a 6.75-mill operating levy and a 1.4-mill permanent improvement levy – are up for renewal next year, Carpenter said.

Board members are already planning to soon meet with local elected officials, community and business leaders, and district residents to discuss the district’s finances.

“We have to get the word out we’re in survival mode,” Carpenter said.

Elected officials are being invited to a meeting Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at the middle school to begin the discussions.

Tim Krugh, school board president, said he and other board members are most concerned about the effects the cuts in state funding will have on the district’s operating budget.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “That’s the largest issue. Our main goal now is to inform the public about how quickly this came on and get their input as to what we might be able to do.”

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