The Oregon City Schools District is facing an $11 million deficit in 2016, according to Treasurer Jane Fruth at a school board meeting last Tuesday.
The district will have to pass a levy before then to avoid the deficit. She said.
The reduction in the budget is due to low real estate values, cuts in funds from the state, and the partial closure of of Toledo Edison’s Bay Shore power plant.
“Throughout the last several years, the amount of dollars that we collect has been reduced by over 12.3 percent,” said Fruth. “What that means is that back in 2007, one mill brought in $634,579. Now, one mill brings in $556,249. That’s significant. What that means is should we ever have to go for additional levy money, it will take more millage to bring in the same amount of money. That is something no one wants to hear it, but it’s where we’re at right now.”
The district this year will also lose funds due to a tax appeal by the Bay Shore power plant, she said.
“This is a one-time reduction. This is where they go back the last couple of years, and take back money that has been collected prior to the revision of the revaluation. So the general fund loss will be approximately $130,000, the bond fund loss is $10,000 and the PI (Permanent Improvement) fund loss is $4,000. This is something we’ll have to take into account this year. Obviously, in future years, we’ll be collecting on the lower valuation, so it will affect us in the future as well,” she said.
In addition, the district will lose funds as a result of the Bay Shore power plant shutting down three quarters of its plant, she said.
“The best estimate of the impact from the closure, and it will not affect us until 2014, is we’ll lose $168,750 in the general fund. Then in 2015, and every year after that, we’ll be losing $337,500. So this will impact our five year forecast negatively as well,” said Fruth.
The district could also lose funds through the “hold harmless” monies that it receives.
“Something that we’re keeping our eye on is we are currently receiving hold harmless payments, and the legislature, when they put together the biennial budget, did in fact say they would hold school districts that are currently receiving hold harmless monies to 2013 levels. For us, that’s over $4 million. However, that could be changed, so I always keep that in the forefront of our minds because right now we’ve got it. But in Gov. Kasich’s original budget, it was being eliminated by about $770,000 per year, starting in 2014. I don’t want to be a fear monger, but that is a very real possibility,” said Fruth.
“At the end of 2016, we’re looking at an $11 million deficit, and that’s assuming we get to keep the $770,000 from the legislature, that’s assuming they will allow us to stay at the fiscal year 2013 hold harmless levels,” said Fruth.
The unencumbered cash balance for the general fund at the end the year is an estimated $7.3 million. But moving forward, you can see our cash flow, at the end of the five year forecast in 2016, will be an $11 million deficit. This continued erosion of our valuation is serious and we have to be concerned,” said Fruth.
Fruth also said that the district is going to have to renew its five-year permanent improvement levy.
“We will need to have it renewed by Dec. 31 of 2013 to ensure an uninterrupted collection. This is a levy we’ve been renewing every so often so that we can continue to have monies to upkeep our equipment and buildings,” she said.