Fairfield Schools are financially stable, forecast shows

Officials for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, which is one of the largest districts in southwest Ohio, say the district's recent five-year financial forecast shows it to be stable when it comes to its operations. The governing school board recently reviewed the district's state-mandated, financial projection. (File Photo\Journal-News)

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Officials for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, which is one of the largest districts in southwest Ohio, say the district's recent five-year financial forecast shows it to be stable when it comes to its operations. The governing school board recently reviewed the district's state-mandated, financial projection. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Thanks to a new state funding formula — and in part due to federal coronavirus relief monies — Fairfield Schools are on stable financial footing, according to district officials’ latest financial forecast.

The schools’ recent five-year financial forecast, which is required of all Ohio public school districts twice a year, was presented earlier this month to Fairfield’s school board by district Treasurer Nancy Lane.

Lane told board members the forecasts are designed in part to allow state education and auditor officials to “identify school districts with potential financial problems.”

“We are not one of those districts right now, thank goodness,” Lane told the board.

Fiscal years for Ohio’s public school districts ends on June 30 and Lane said the 10,000-student school system “did finish a little bit better than projected … so that’s good news.”

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Local, state and federal tax revenue was better than projected and expenses were lower than anticipated, she said concerning the district’s nearly $100 million annual operating budget.

Of Fairfield’s total tax revenue, 46% comes from local school property taxes and 35% comes from state funding with the remaining percentages coming from a variety of other funding sources including some federal monies, Lane noted in her board presentation.

“I am projecting that our (tax) collections will remain steady throughout the forecasting period (five years),” she said.

There was no discussion of a possibility of future school tax levies but Lane cautioned not all financial variables can been seen now the next five years.

Fairfield Schools are projected to collect more than $46 million in local property taxes in 2022 and nearly $48 million in 2026.

Five-year financial projections, however, are inherently problematic in that there is no possible accounting for the level of state funding beyond the state’s current biennium budget, which was approved this summer.

Moreover, the historically unique variables brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and its still unforeseen financial impacts, adds an even greater degree of uncertainty to the state-mandated, twice-a-year forecasts.

Lane said Fairfield and other districts are still awaiting details from the Ohio Department of Education regarding Ohio’s revamped school funding formula, which most local district officials welcomed as an improvement over the previous, highly criticized funding formula.

“We probably won’t receive that information until some time next month (December),” she said.

She said for the next two fiscal years — through June 30, 2023 — Fairfield will receive state funding “for students who are actually here.”

“We’ll see a drop in expenses — and also a bit of a drop in (state) revenue, but overall, the net effect is favorable for us,” said Lane.

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