Fairfield Schools face budget shortfall

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 will have a budget shortfall in 2023 of nearly $10 million, which will increase in each year through 2026. 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 will have a budget shortfall in 2023 of nearly $10 million, which will increase in each year through 2026. The governing school board recently reviewed the district's state-mandated, financial projection. (File Photo\Journal-News)

District one of multiple in area that will need operating money.

The latest local school district to join a growing list of those facing projected budget deficits is also one of Butler County’s largest.

And the school system, like some others, are looking at possible future budget cuts or asking residents to raise school taxes.

The 10,000-student Fairfield school system, which draws student from both the city and adjacent Fairfield Twp., will have a $9.7 million projected budget shortfall in 2023, according to the district’s top financial officer.

No decisions have been made, said Fairfield Schools Treasurer Nancy Lane during a recent school board meeting, concerning any possible budget cuts or proposed school tax hikes.

The financial projection “is a long-range planning tool we use” and such public reports also allow state officials to keep abreast of districts who face future “financial problems,” said Lane.

“It’s been over 10 years since we asked for new operating money,” Lane said referring to Fairfield and Fairfield Twp. voters approving the most recent requested school tax hike. “We are going start having some conversations about possibly looking at cutting expenses or asking our community for additional revenue.”

Fairfield’s annual operating budget is about $101 million.

Starting in 2023, the district is estimating operating expenses of $110 million with an estimated $9.7 million short fall.

By 2026, if all projected financial variables remain the same, Fairfield Schools would have a nearly $23 million budget deficit.

Lane’s recent budget presentation to the Fairfield Board of Education was done to fulfill Ohio’s mandate that all public school systems provide five-year financial projections twice a year to the Ohio Department of Education.

Other area districts also reporting projected budget deficits in the coming years include Lakota, Hamilton, Ross, Madison and Talawanda school systems.

Officials at Ross Schools have said they will have a proposed tax increase on the August ballot for its residents to decide on and Talawanda officials said their suggested tax increase will be on the November ballot.

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Such half-decade projections, however, are often problematic due unpredictable fluctuations in Ohio’s biennium budget, which often comprises the majority of funding for the state’s 613 public school systems.

“We don’t know what the biennium budgets will be and we don’t know if they (state) is going to continue with the (current) funding plan,” she said. “It’s a bit of mystery but hopefully we’ll see a bit of an increase in the next couple of years.”

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