While the five-year forecast for Fairfield City Schools projects the district will remain in the black through 2017, thanks partly to an influx of levy and other monies, dwindling amounts in the district’s permanent improvement fund have district officials worried.
The district will have $16 million in its unreserved fund balance at the end of this year, according to officials. That balance is expected to be $4.9 million in 2017.
“We had a pretty good year last year, and it helped us with our forecast as far as passing our (operating) levy and pulling down our expenditures a little bit,” said Treasurer Nancy Lane.
Because the district’s state report card rating improved from “Effective” to “Excellent,” it will receive $160,000 for the current fiscal year from the state, according to Lane.
The district also implemented an open enrollment policy for the first time this year, and that is expected to bring $600,000 to the district, based on approximately 105 students. Also on the horizon — but less certain — is a share of revenue from casinos. Ohio casinos may bring in $105,000 in 2013 and $210,000 for 2014, officials said. That money is based on the student count, although the actual dollar amount per student has not been determined yet, Lane said.
On the expenditures side, the district expects there will will be 2 percent base wage increases for fiscal year 2015 and beyond for all staff. This is after there were no wage or step increases in 2013 and ‘14, as negotiated with the teachers’ union.
The district will also have to pay more for health insurance. Rates are expected to increase between 15 percent and 20 percent Jan. 1, which would be the biggest increase in five years, Lane said. She estimated the rate increases to total about $1.8 million.
“There’s only so many benefits you can trim before you really have to go out and start all over with forming a package,” she said.
But worrisome to the board was the fact that the schools’ permanent improvement fund is running dry. The district has set aside $500,000 earmarked specifically for district improvements and repairs, but Lane and board members were concerned that money wouldn’t suffice for even this year. The district’s permanent improvement levy failed in 2008.
“That’s assuming nothing breaks between now and 2017,” Board member Mark Morris said.
Previously, the district had more than $2 million a year in permanent improvement funds. If necessary, the district could draw from the general fund to pay for emergency repairs, Lane said.
“When you’ve got nine buildings, you have fuses getting shorter and shorter where something major is going to happen … we’re skating on thin ice here,” Board vice president Dan Murray said.