Ohio school district, two villages on distress list
Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH, AP Statehouse Correspondent   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 07:25

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A northeast Ohio school district and two villages were flagged for fiscal distress by the state auditor on Tuesday, an unusually high weekly tally that the state auditor says he'd like to combat with a new alarm system of sorts.

Action by Auditor Dave Yost placed the Mansfield City Schools in northeast Ohio and the village of Edgerton west of Toledo in fiscal emergency. Bloomingburg, a village in southwest Ohio's Fayette County, was placed in a state of fiscal caution.

The state may now intervene to help the school district and Edgerton.

Yost said the designations are "a function of the difficult economic situation we've had since 2008."

Fiscal caution is a new distress category for local governments established under Yost, a Republican, who took office in 2011. It's designed to warn governments early that their finances are heading into trouble, so they can take corrective steps.

Yost said in an interview that his office is also testing a new 16-factor checklist tied to detailed income and spending data that schools and governments could use to predict a potential fiscal crisis three years earlier than they can now.

"What I would much rather do is pick up the phone and call a mayor or a county commissioner and say, 'Hey, we've noticed some trends in your financials that could lead to a pretty bad place,' rather than sending them a letter saying, 'Congratulations, you're in fiscal emergency,'" he said.

The new tool is being tested first in cities, but could eventually be available to schools and villages like those flagged Tuesday.

Mansfield's schools had been under fiscal watch since 2006. Last month, the school board formally acknowledged the district's inability to erase a projected deficit without intervention. It joins a half-dozen of Ohio's 613 school districts already in fiscal emergency.

Edgerton joins 21 other Ohio municipalities in fiscal emergency.

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