ELYRIA — Elyria Schools’ bottom line remains strong through 2020, but school officials said they have to get a handle on student enrollment.
As the district loses students, it also loses money.
On Wednesday night, district Treasurer Joy Clickenger delivered an updated five-year financial forecast to school board members. These updates are given every May and October.
“Knowing our resources for the future is paramount to planning for the future,” Clickenger said. “It dictates what we can do or can’t do for kids.”
Elyria has fewer of those kids than originally thought six months ago. In October, the enrollment for 2016 was estimated at 6,095 students.
The May number is 101 students fewer at 5,994.
Clickenger said Elyria lost about $1.4 million in state funding along with the students. One-time collections of about $500,000 in additional property tax revenue and reductions in spending cushioned the loss a bit to keep the district’s positive future in line.
“If we can turn enrollment around, our revenue would go up, and that would help our deficit spending,” Clickenger said.
Superintendent Tom Jama said the district is losing money to community schools as parents enroll students elsewhere. The reasons for leaving a district can be very subjective, and Jama said he’s hoping transportation changes will encourage parents to return to Elyria Schools.
“Especially at the elementary level, when parents are juggling how to get multiple kids to school,” he said.
Board member Greg Elek said the district’s plan to build new elementary and middle schools, if voters pass a bond issue, could be another reason to come back.
Even with the enrollment shrinking, the district is carefully spending money and keeping a healthy cash balance, Clickenger said.
The cash balance for 2016 is more than $23 million, which is projected to climb to more than $25 million in 2017. The year 2018 is predicted to have the district start deficit spending, but the cash balance stays at more than $24 million. By 2019, it drops to more than $20 million, and by 2020 the cash balance is more than $15 million.
“This is awesome,” Clickenger said. “This forecast assumes passing of a renewal levy in 2019. But even with the renewal, there is a trend of deficit spending that will have to be addressed.”
Any savings the district can realize from operation efficiencies based on the new construction of buildings has not been factored into the five-year forecast, but it would help the deficit spending if the bond issue is successful.
In other news
Board members adopted a resolution from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission for its master plan and passed a resolution to approve the locally funded options for the upcoming bond issue.
Instead of the customary “aye” votes, board members each chose to say “yes” loudly to unanimously approve each motion. A round of applause sealed the deal.
School board members have not formally voted to put a bond issue before voters, but the plan will include two new K-4 elementary buildings and three K-8 or preschool-8 campus-style buildings at a cost of about $120 million, with the state kicking in $80 million.
There are about $20 million additional costs for local add-ons that taxpayers will fund.
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