Under Ohio school law, districts are annually required to do two, five-year budget projections ― one in May and one in November.
The financial forecasts, however, are often problematic ― even in the better times of no global pandemic ― due to the state’s changing formulation of biennium budgets and uncertain school funding levels in two-year increments.
With Lakota operating in-person classes at its 22 schools and all the extra expenses the district has incurred since all Ohio schools were impacted by the COVID-19 virus in March, the district’s cost of operations has increased, said Logan, making forecasts even more difficult.
“Trying to project beyond this year, even this month, is difficult at this time. Being in a spending deficit situation means we are having to rely on our cash reserves which we have been fortunate enough to build up over the past eight years,” said Logan.
Logan, and other Lakota officials, emphasized there is no discussion, or other consideration, to seek more local tax revenue through a proposed levy. Rather, they said, the financial community discussion was conducted as part of the district’s transparency regarding its financial state and what Lakota is reporting to state officials.
She reported Lakota in 2019 had a per-pupil expenditure of $9,859, which was less than other comparable, large enrollment school districts ― with similar demographics ― such as Mason ($10,470) in Warren County and Princeton ($10,335) and Sycamore ($12,155) in northern Hamilton County.
Lakota school parent Samuel Jonovski participated in the online discussion and said overall he is pleased with the district is handling both student learning and finances during the unprecedented pandemic.
“I give Lakota a lot of credit. Overall the process has been working great,” Jonovski told district officials.
Fellow school parent Alicia Temmesfeld told officials she considers the proper way to look at Lakota’s uncertain financial state, and its looming budget shortfall, is to keep the realities of schooling during coronavirus in mind.
“This is pandemic spending. This isn’t deficit spending,” said Temmesfeld.