When Delaware Schools Treasurer Melissa Swearingen shared forecast numbers for the District for the next five years, the mood was upbeat.
That’s what happens when projections change in a positive direction.
In this case, it’s the Five Year Forecast for Delaware City Schools, which must be filed before May 31. Swearingen led members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting on Monday night in a review of what has changed since the last required Forecast was adopted and submitted in November of last year.
Assumptions on which the current Forecast are based were discussed on May 3.
Revenue numbers changed reflecting Delaware County’s recently completed triennial update of property taxes, which impacted the 2021 collection year. These have resulted in projected property taxes being up 17.8 percent as compared to the 10 percent projected six months ago. Looking forward, tax revenue is anticipated to grow by one percent a year until the next appraisal in 2023.
The District also assumed higher delinquency rates due to the COVID pandemic, however actual collection figures were higher in spring 2021. The result is a 3 ½ increase in projected revenue in this area.
Unrestricted grants, however, are at $400,000 less than they were in 2019, although the 2021 projection has actually increased 2.5 percent from November.
The Treasurer then referenced House Bill 1, the Fair School Funding Plan. That measure has passed the Ohio House but awaits a corresponding bill in the Ohio Senate. Still, there is a projecting of a return to 2019 funding levels in 2022 and small increases in 2023 through 2025.
Also funding may look different in certain areas, Swearingen said.
In terms of other revenue, the large check received from Workers Compensation is not expected to be a pattern and there will be less in this area moving forward.
In terms of expenditures, personnel costs are based on current negotiated agreements through the current fiscal year. The Board has approved a one year contract extension with one union and also considered similar measures with two additional unions at Monday’s meeting.
The Forecast includes two percent base and step increases moving forward with new hiring only as needed. Eight new FTEs were added this year because of special education needs, class sizes at the high school, and the number of bus routes required under the hybrid model. Ten additional FTEs are anticipated in FY 2023 and four for the remainder of the Forecast.
The bottom line number for personnel expenditures is a slight decrease from the November Forecast; the number for benefits shows a similar decrease.
The bottom line is the revenue is projected to increase 2 million from the November Forecast, with expenditures decreasing $248,000, thus having a positive impact on the cash balance and creating an operating surplus for 2021. In 2022, expenditures are projected to be slightly higher than revenue, but the aforementioned cash balance will be enough to offset that difference.
The Forecast, Sweaingen concluded, is a “fluid document” with many unknowns as the District projects out into the future.