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Wadsworth Schools might face deficit

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WADSWORTH — The school district has been projected to end the current fiscal year about $600,000 in the red, which could play a hand in officials seeking a future levy or bond issue.

In his five-year forecast, treasurer Douglas Beeman said expenses going toward staff salaries and benefits coming in 1 percent lower than expected might be enough to erase all or most of that deficit by the beginning of July.

The district has received in $47 million this fiscal year while spending $47.6 million, with roughly 80 percent of the money going toward salaries and benefits.

“The way that spending is continuing to trend, it can really end up making a difference for us in June,” Beeman said. “It would be really close to breaking even. But moving forward, we’ll be in a deficit spending situation.”

An $18.07 million reserve cash balance at the end of the fiscal year could be depleted by 2023 without a new revenue stream, the treasurer said. Property taxes increasing by 4.4 percent led to $962,046 in additional revenue compared with fiscal year 2018. This year’s health insurance renewal saw no rate increase after increases hovered between 2.3 percent and 5.4 percent the past four years, meaning that it required less money.

“Property taxes created a big shift in the forecast for this year and moving forward,” Beeman said. “We’re in a consortium for our health care, and a zero percent renewal is huge with the industry trending between 8 and 10 percent. It represented about a $2 million change in the forecast.”

No permanent improvement levy has been implemented in the district since the passage of a 0.5-percent Medina County sales tax going toward school improvements, which generates about $2 million annually for Wadsworth. The expired 0.7-mill levy brought in $700,000 each year, Beeman said.

Permanent improvement money must be spent on building repair projects and physical materials with a lifespan of at least five years.

Beeman said district officials have began mulling an operational levy, which can go toward staff pay and monthly bills, and a bond issue that would pay for replacement of Central Intermediate School. In 2008, voters approved a

$65 million bond issue that paid for construction of Wadsworth High School, Wadsworth Community Center and three elementary school buildings. No operational levy has been used in the district since 2011.

“It’s still too early to know a timeframe or have an idea of millage, but those things have been talked about,” he said. “We’re possibly going to deficit spend this year for the first time since 2011 or 2012, and the board is aware of that. An operating levy is going to be needed at some point in the future, but we haven’t made a decision on when that will be because we don’t need to yet.”

About $19.5 million in state aid comes into the district each year. That number could have grown by roughly $1 million under a proposed plan to overhaul Ohio’s school funding formula, but that measure has not gained approval from state legislators. Beeman said state funding should remain the same under the upcoming biennial budget from Governor Mike DeWine.

“Our enrollment has declined a bit over the past couple of years, and that put the district into guarantee status with the state,” Beeman said. “When you put our numbers into the formula, it kicks out a number that is actually lower than the previous year but the state guarantees it will remain stable. We’re projecting flat state aid right now as we move forward.”

“Wadsworth has been a community that supports its schools, and I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate we’ve been,” he added. “While we haven’t done any preliminary studies on how the community would support a new levy, past history tells us what to expect. We passed that bond issue in 2008 with the economy in the tank, and I would hope we’d see that kind of support again.”

Contact reporter Jonathan Delozier at (330) 721-4050 or jdelozier@medina-gazette.com.

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