Lakota bond changes save taxpayers $900,000

Lakota Local School District taxpayers won’t be getting any big rebate checks, but the school system has found some significant savings of taxpayer money.

School district officials told the Lakota Board of Education last week that thanks to the re-financing of school bond rates the Butler County district will save taxpayers $900,000 this year.

It’s an opportunity Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan has used before through refinancing school bonds at lower interest rates.

“This is a direct savings to taxpayers,” Logan said. “Similar to a personal loan, school districts have big expenses that they can’t pay for in one lump sum, and end up paying on that debt for many years. Bonds, like the last one the community voted to approve in January 2006, allow school districts to borrow funds, at a fixed interest rate, to help pay for immediate, high-cost expenses, without depleting its cash reserve.”

Lakota’s annual operating budget is $149.5 million.

The district is the eighth largest in Ohio and the second largest in Southwest Ohio.

It’s the latest in series of cost-cutting savings by district officials, said Lauren Boettcher, spokeswoman for Lakota Schools.

Compared to 2010, Lakota is spending $15 million less in operations costs and now projects to have a 150-day cash balance — or operating expenses for that time period — by 2020, which is up from the 60 days cash balance in 2013.

Moreover, the district has lowered by $14 million its overall labor costs, which comprise about 80 percent of the total operating budget for Lakota and most Ohio school districts, compared to 2010.

Last week’s bond re-financing is the latest in a series of cost-cutting savings by district officials, said Lauren Boettcher, spokeswoman for Lakota Schools.

“We are proud of the fact that we are operating on balanced budget and have been for quite some time now,” she said.

“That’s not as much as a result of cutting costs. It’s more that we’re living within our means and containing costs in every way possible. That includes measures like refinancing our bonds. Every savings we can manage gives us that much more latitude to provide more opportunities to our students,” she said.

In 2013 voters in the Lakota district approved a new operating tax that helped the previously financially struggling school system.

“The levy dollars are being used exactly as we committed to using them, for things like enhanced safety and security and a more modern delivery of instruction, including enhancements to our technology infrastructure,” said Boettcher.