Athens City Schools In Deficit But Paying Bills

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Even while Athens City Schools still experiences savings from closing Chauncey Elementary School last year, the district faces deficit spending.

While that’s not ideal, the district is expected to have enough funds to cover the expenses for the next few years, said Treasurer Matt Bunting.

“We’re not a business; we’re not expected to make a profit for a shareholder,” said Bunting.

“If we can operate and break even, then we’re OK.”

After accounting for all revenues and expenditures, the district is expected to have a deficit of $803,713 at the end of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The deficit will be covered using the district’s cash balance of nearly $7.5 million, according to the five-year forecast.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had cash in the black,” Bunting said.

Cash balances combined with projected income and property taxes are expected to cover the district’s deficits through 2017.

The district receives about $3.5 million each year from the 1 percent earned income tax.

That’s equivalent to about $1,200 per student. The tax, which was originally passed in November 2006, was renewed in May 2010 and is expected to be on the ballot as a renewal in 2014.

Most recently, voters approved a $3.2 million dollar emergency levy that first passed in 2004 and was renewed in November 2008 and again in 2012 with a $500,000 increase.

When the district closed the elementary school, it anticipated to save more than $1.75 million in annual operating costs for fiscal year 2013 and beyond.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, it’s not uncommon to see deficits in years four and five of a forecast, which is a document designed to paint a picture of a district’s finances based on a snapshot of today.

Given the uncertainty of the state budget, local economic factors, state or federal mandates, etc., later years are hard to project.

However, Bunting said it’s important to look to the latter years of a forecast to try to head off financial problems early. He expects to implement additional saving measures in the future, but he doesn’t anticipate anything generating the same kinds of savings as the Chauncey closure produced.

He added that small savings have the potential to have a larger impact in the future.

“We keep making attempts to keep expenditures as low as possible,” he added. “But the cost of diesel goes up and a lot of other expenses go up. It’s trying.”

This article contributed by the Athens Messenger