Middletown fiscal officer predicts no school operating tax hikes for next half decade

Randy Bertram, treasurer of Middletown Schools, told the city school board Monday evening his financial projections include no need for the district to ask residents for an operating tax hike for at least the next half-decade. Bertram presented to the board a five-year financial forecast as mandated by the state for all public school systems, twice a year. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
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Randy Bertram, treasurer of Middletown Schools, told the city school board Monday evening his financial projections include no need for the district to ask residents for an operating tax hike for at least the next half-decade. Bertram presented to the board a five-year financial forecast as mandated by the state for all public school systems, twice a year. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

District is in ‘great shape’ going forward, treasurer informs board.

Among all the financial projections made Monday evening by the top fiscal officer for Middletown Schools, this prediction may interest city residents the most: No new school tax hikes for the next five years.

Maybe even longer than that, said Randy Bertram, treasurer for Middletown Schools, during a work session meeting of the district’s board of education.

“We are in great shape now and we know we will be five years from now,” Bertram told board members during the October version of state-mandated, twice-a-year financial projections every public school system is required to conduct.

But he cautioned there is no way of knowing what the next state biennium budget may hold when it comes to state funding for Ohio’s 613 public school districts.

The most recent state budget, approved by the Ohio Legislature in June, was largely favorable for the 6,300-student Middletown Schools.

“I’ve modeled no (operating) levies in this forecast,” said Bertram, but he added whether the current, relatively favorable state funding, which comprises 49% of the city schools’ annual operating revenue, remains in the next biennium budget is impossible to predict.

Moreover, he said, “if inflation stays high it will have a drastic impact on school funding. And we are at the mercy of any changes they (Ohio lawmakers) make.”

Board of Education President Chris Urso echoed Bertram, saying: “We are asked to forecast five years out, but we only know two years out.”

Helping the district avoid a projected budget deficit for a half decade is the continued federal financial pandemic aid to help offset Middletown — and all Ohio districts and those nationwide — as it weathers the costs of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grant Program, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped earlier this year to stave off possible school budget cuts in Middletown personnel and programs that would have totaled $2.5 million.

ExploreFederal funds will delay $2.5 million in planned cuts for Middletown Schools

Middletown’s current operating budget is $68.3 million annually to operate 10 schools.

Bertram said Middletown Schools average per pupil expenditure of $13,800 is well below the state average of $16,000.

Urso said to Bertram “one of our core responsibilities is being good stewards of taxpayers’ monies and we can’t do it without the good information you provide us.”

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