Elida schools considering November levy

June 26, 2013

ELIDA — With the district’s carryover balance continuing to dwindle, Elida schools Treasurer Joel Parker recommends heading back to the ballot for a third try in November.

Parker told board members during a study session Tuesday that the district needs to think about all the financial unknowns that could negatively impact the district, including decreases in federal and state funding, tax policy changes, health care and vouchers.

“There are so many things in the air that just to make sure we are on sound financial ground I think we probably need to really consider looking at November,” he said.

Fifty-three percent of voters rejected a five-year, 5.95 mill levy in May. Sixty-percent said “no” to an issue in November. Parker recommends going back with a similar property tax issue as in May. A property tax would allow the district to collect money sooner, but not going on in November would mean waiting until 2015 to collect.

The board has until Aug. 7 to get on the ballot. The board will have to hold two meetings before then to pass resolutions to take an issue to voters.

Elida will end this fiscal year Sunday with a 32-day, or $1.7 million carryover. That drops to 24 days, $1.3 million in a year from now and then to $997,798, or 17 days the following year. Parker would like to see the district get to a 60-day carryover in order to prepare for negative financial things that could come in the future.

“I would hate to see us fail to prepare and not make proper plans,” he said. “In 2003 we had an eight-day carryover. I would really like to avoid those days of staring at eight-day carryovers, knowing that our operation is big enough that every payroll is half a million dollars.”

If the district doesn’t pass a levy, it would have an eight-day carryover of $474,554 on June 30, 2015. Passing a levy in November would result in a 65-day carryover of $3.65 million.

Parker worries about changes in tax policies and an expanded voucher program. The district saw $686,000 leave the district for community schools last year. He questions whether those schools are held to same accountability standards.

Elida lost $2.3 million in revenue over the past five years while cutting $2.8 million. Forty-three employees have been cut in the last 10 years.

The most recent $465,569 in cuts approved after the November levy defeat, including increasing pay-to-participate fees, replacing retiring staff with those making less money and restructuring two central office positions, begin this coming school year.

No additional cuts are expected, but without a successful levy attempt, more would be needed the following year. Officials have said it would be hard to find places to reduce.

“When you look at what we currently spend per pupil and knowing 90 percent of schools on fiscal caution already spend more than we do, I think that indicates that we have cut to the bone and we are done cutting,” Parker said.

While the district is expected to get a boost in funding from the state, Parker pointed out that state funding levels will be the same next year as in 2004, $7.5 million.

“When folks say we are getting money from the state next year, it is only bringing us back to 2004 levels with the same enrolment,” he said, adding that the final state two-year budget is still not finalized.

The board also hired Faith Cummings as part-time curriculum and assessment director Tuesday. Cummings is retiring soon from her full-time position as elementary principal. She previously served as No Child Left Behind director and continued to do some of those duties while serving as principal.