Otsego forecasts finances
Written by By MARIE THOMAS Sentinel Education Editor
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 09:17
TONTOGANY - Otsego School District's financial forecast has improved, but the treasurer has pointed out that the board and administrators still need to be fiscally smart in their decision-making.
District Treasurer Pam Harrington reminded board members Monday the last two forecasts were much more bleak, but the $1.5 million in budget cuts the board made in the last two years have had an impact.
"The cuts that we have made have made a difference," she stated.
Still, without additional operating money, she is predicting the district will be in a deficit situation by June 2013.
"The need for operating funds is not going away just because we're showing a little in the black," said board member Lisa Hatfield.
Harrington's forecast shows only a slight increase in revenues over the next five years.
She said she kept property tax receipts flat through June 2011, then optimistically estimated a 3-percent increase for each of the following three years.
She added that the Ohio Department of Taxation had advised she reduce estimated income tax collection by 16 percent. For fiscal year 2009, income tax receipts were $2.533 million; her estimate for this year is $2.119 million with only negligible increases each year through fiscal year 2014.
Harrington forecasted no increase in the $6.876 million cost of personal services through 2012; benefits, however, are expected to increase at least 5 percent each year.
Principals also have been asked to trim their building expenses for materials and supplies by 10 percent.
While her forecast - she stressed it was simply a planning tool required by the state - shows revenues increasing by $706,853 through June 2014, during that same period, expenses are expected to increase $1,386,142. That spending imbalance is projected to push the district into the red by June 2013, according to the five-year forecast approved by the board Monday.
Harrington said the forecast would be placed on the district's Web site as soon as possible.
She added that there is a lot of uncertainty in Columbus over how to fund House Bill 1, the state's budget bill, which includes a number of mandates such as all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.
"To project two years out is almost impossible," Harrington stated. "To project five years out is almost unrealistic."
Also at the meeting, parents with children who participate in the Valentis Athletica soccer club voiced concerns that their club was being treated differently from other club sports that use Otsego facilities for practices and games.
Valentis was presented, mid season, with a bill for field usage amounting to $50 per usage, or at least $950 for the balance of the season.
Parent Steve Rea said he didn't disagree with the fee, just that it should have been assessed at the start of the season.
Superintendent Jim Garber said the oversight was brought to his attention late in the season, which is why the club received the billing when it did.
According to the district's policy, club sports teams with more than half of their participants from Otsego have some usage fees waived. For the soccer club, only about one-third of its players are from Otsego, with the balance from Bowling Green and other surrounding communities.
Parents Beth Stimmel and Mary Beth Swanson also didn't protest the fee, rather its timing as well as the perception that soccer was being singled out since other sports - they named flag football and club volleyball - were not being charged despite those teams having fewer than half of their participants from Otsego.
School board President James Harter asked that each board member receive a copy of the policy, and told parents that the issue would be a topic at the next meeting. Meanwhile, he charged Garber with looking into whether other teams needed to be charged a fee.
We want to make sure we're treating everyone fairly," he stated, and added that all groups need to be held to the same standards.