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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Get ready for another possible round of cuts at Genoa schools.

The western Ottawa County school system is facing thousands of dollars of revenue loss in the next year that’ll pack a powerful punch.

“Busing for the high school. Increasing pay-to-play. It’s all back on the block for review,” said Superintendent Dennis Mock.

Layoffs are also a possibility; as is a levy request.

“This is not a good time for educational funding. You go to what would be considered minimum requirements,” the superintendent added.

To date, school officials anticipate a 20 percent loss in state aid and a loss of tangible personal property taxes to befall them within a year and half, Mock explained. “To regain it would be 8 or 9 mills. I don’t think that anybody believes 8 or 9 mills will pass in this economy.”

The board and administration are still trying to decipher what Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s budget changes mean overall for the school system, said Treasurer Bill Nye.

“We are considered a guaranteed school district,” Mock said. “That means we are not supposed to get more or less than what we have in the past from the state.”

The problem is no one has determined how the budget affects the monies earmarked for those systems carrying the “guaranteed” designation, he added.

What the Genoa administration does know, however, is a slew of other losses already project a grim outlook.

When the five-year budget forecast was approved in October 2010, Genoa expected a cash balance carryover of $566,708 at the end of the fiscal year, which is July 2011, according to Nye’s numbers. That figure has dwindled to $406,908 in newly calculated forecasts.

Even worse, a projected 2012-13 school year deficit of $641,000 has grown to $1.12 million, he added.

School officials already know the district won’t receive any more federal stimulus money (cash which replaced previous state cuts the last two years).

The unsettling budget prediction incorporates a number of other variables, too, Mock said.

Under House Bill 66, tangible personal property taxes, which were a major funding source for many school districts, were phased out and replaced by a commercial activity tax. A “hold harmless” period to reimburse schools losing revenues from the switch to the CAT was to end in fiscal year 2018. The Kasich budget accelerated the end date to fiscal tear 2014.

The tangible personal property tax is a business tax on inventory, machinery, and other equipment and holdings.

Ohio Department of Education figures released last week show Genoa facing a considerable drop in tangible personal property tax receipts. This year, Genoa receives $607,369. That drops to $395,932 in 2012; $184,495 in 2013 and none in 2014.

“Good for business, bad for schools,” Mock said.

Nye, in newsletter columns to district residents, repeatedly has stated over the past two years that a growing local housing foreclosure list, real estate property tax delinquencies, and the lack of a vigorous economic recovery have prolonged the school district’s budget problems.

In 2009, Nye noted that practically every revenue stream of the district had been negatively impacted. Interest rates on the district’s investments such as certificates of deposit and money market accounts have fallen, while costs for utilities, heating, and other expenses grew.

In response, the board of education over the past two years has made budget reductions of $1.8 million. Those cuts, according to a Comet Communicator column, included one administrator, seven teachers, and one education service employee during the 2009-10 school year.

Like school districts across the state, Genoa officials maintain that the unanticipated changes have stretched the district past its usual limits.

All this comes as Genoa readies to open its new elementary school on the campus now housing the high school and middle school on Genoa-Clay Center Road.

Local construction money came from a taxpayer-approved 1.9 mill, 28-year bond issue in November 2008. The bond, pegged to help cover costs for the new elementary and renovations at the high school, is expected to generate $5.23 million for the project’s local share. The remainder comes from $13.7 million provided by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission as well as a $6.2 million credit the district has with the OSFC.

Revenues for building funds, however, and daily operations come from separate pots and cannot be transferred, Mock noted.

Genoa schools last asked for an operating levy in November 2005. After that, high school busing was restored. The district also reduced the cost of pay-to-play and school fees, Mock said.

In May 2010, the district sought to pass a 1 percent earned income tax levy. It failed.

The school board has scheduled a special session for April 11 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed state budget and possible spending cuts.

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