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Elyria schools in good financial shape -- as long as renewal levy passes

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ELYRIA — As long as its renewal levy passes, Elyria Schools will be in good financial shape through 2023, the Board of Education learned Wednesday.

Schools Treasurer Joy Clickenger said the district is required twice a year to present a five-year financial forecast to the Ohio Department of Education.

The newest forecast assumes that Issue 6, the district’s 4.95-mill renewal levy, will pass. Not a new tax, it generates $3.6 million per year and will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 approximately $129 per year. Voters have renewed the levy every five years since 1999.

The district has an approximately $85 million annual operating budget and about 6,300 students enrolled. Without the levy, the estimated ending cash balance in 2023 is “not good,” Clickenger said: $9.2 million in deficit spending.

With the levy, the estimated balance at the end of Fiscal Year 2023 is more than $3.4 million in the black, according to the five-year forecast.

Clickenger said several factors have been positive for the district and its finances. Enrollment is “higher than anticipated” as “word about the opportunities” offered in Elyria Schools “is getting out” to other communities.

As a result, the state is expected to send the district about $800,000 in additional funding per year over the next five years, she said. The state provides about 45 percent of the district’s revenue, based on student counts and property values.

“More students mean more state revenue,” Clickenger said.

Residential property values in the district also increased 4 percent this year, above the district’s original 2 percent estimate. Adjusted for other factors, that means an additional $50,000 in school coffers, Clickenger said.

More surrounding districts are paying tuition to Elyria Schools due to open enrollment, with those “purchased services” increasing 2 percent and a larger jump expected in 2019, Clickenger said. Also, utilities costs are down due to a decrease in the cost of natural gas, although electricity costs are up due to the cost of air conditioning in the schools, she said.

After 22 Elyria teachers retired or resigned following the 2017-18 school year, the district saved $567,000 in salary costs even though it hired 23 teachers to replace those who left, Clickenger said.

Offsetting the positive gains was an increase in special education costs. And overall district revenue remains “pretty flat” depending on the outcome of the gubernatorial election and any changes in the state school funding formula, Clickenger said.

No matter what happens, “we are committed to being responsible stewards of our funds,” Clickenger said.

Board members were cautiously optimistic.

“I don’t like operating on the edge like that, but that’s the business we’re in,” board member Jim Backs said.

“It’s a good, conservative forecast,” board member Greg Elek said.

In other business Wednesday, the Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution in support of Issue 25, the city’s 0.5 percent income tax renewal. Not a new tax, it will provide $6.4 million — one-fourth of the city’s annual general fund — to pay for police and fire protection, parks and recreation, street repairs and other city services.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.


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