- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
An historic inside look at Lakota Local Schools’ financial health will soon be showing up in school district residents’ mailboxes.
For the first time, Lakota Schools officials are mailing a comprehensive financial prospectus detailing the financial state of Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system.
The goal, school officials said Friday, is transparency, especially in the wake of the district’s 2013 operating levy approval by voters, which stemmed a rising tide of debt and budget cuts.
The operating tax hike was the first approved by voters since 2005.
“We’ve made strong financial and academic strides to create great opportunities for students. It’s important to note that we’ve not only met our levy commitments, we have exceeded them and restored a stable outlook to the district’s financial future,” said Acting Lakota Superintendent Robb Vogelmann.
“We’re proud of such efforts and want to be transparent in all we are doing. This piece will help local families better understand our financial picture and budget priorities and how that impacts our educational initiatives,” said Vogelmann.
There are no surprises in the financial information.
The 16,500-student district, which is the eighth largest in Ohio, has an annual operating budget of $156 million.
The district has reduced its annual budget by $13.8 million since 2010.
It spends an average of $9,120 per student. The Ohio public schools’ average per pupil expenditure is $8,931.
Like almost all of Ohio’s 613 public school systems, Lakota receives the majority of its operating revenue from local property taxes from residents and businesses – 63 percent – with the second largest portion of funding – 37 percent - coming from the state, federal and other revenue sources.
Lakota officials have previously stated they do not anticipate the school system will experience a budget shortfall until 2020.
The Ohio Auditor’s office recently completed its annual review of Lakota’s finances and reported no findings needing correction.
Lakota and other Ohio school systems are awaiting the formulation and signing of the state’s next biennium budget, which will determine its level of state funding for the next two years. Under law, the Ohio Legislature has to complete the budgeting process by June 30.
The financial flier also offers financial comparisons to other similar size school districts.
Jenni Logan, Lakota treasurer, states in the flier that the district is “just like with any business that shares financial information with investors, this report is designed to share with our residents a more in-depth look at the district’s finances in an easy to understand format.”
“This (report) shows you not only what great strides the district has made to stabilize the serious financial situations of the past, but also what our priorities on spending are now and how we are taking measures to be effective and efficient with our precious resources in the future,” said Logan.
Logan, who won Ohio’s top school treasurer award in 2016, said “we want to continue to create great opportunities for students so they are able to choose whatever college or career path they want after graduation. Yet we know we must accomplish this goal in a fiscally responsible manner.”