School finance reports planned

At every meeting of the Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education, the superintendent plans to present a report on the district’s finances.

“It’s one way to keep everybody updated,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said as he presented his first such report during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Data he presented showed estimated revenue of $23.07 million for fiscal year 2012, compared to estimated expenditures of $24.01 million, for an expected deficit of $941,900.

Beginning in fiscal year 2009, the district has taken in less money than it has spent, with deficits of $1.05 million in 2009, $557,039 in 2010, and $1.24 in 2011, according to Horner’s data.

“Even back in 2008 when we were in the black, we saw trouble on the way,” Horner said.

In 2009 the district spent $23.72 million, followed by $23.61 million in 2010 and $25 million in 2011, when $661,000 was expended on retirement buyout packages.

“We’ve seen some decreases due to over a million dollars in cuts we’ve made, but still expenditures are obviously very concerning,” Horner said.

Revenue as presented in the district’s five-year history has been at approximately $23 million since 2010, with a decrease of approximately $700,000 from 2011 to 2012.

At the same time as the difference between revenue and expenditures continues to grow, so does the difference between enrollment and staffing.

In 1998-99, the district’s enrollment was 3,299 with 329 staff members. Staffing grew to its highest level of 335 in 2000-01. Staffing numbers since have decreased to 272 this year with a projected enrollment of 3,030. Despite enrollment expected to be the same as it was in 2011, staffing numbers are down by eight.

“We are understaffed this year,” Horner said.

Retirement incentive packages were offered in the 2009-10 school year with payments made during the past three fiscal years. While some of those positions had to be filled, the district attempted to replace them with employees at step zero or as low as possible on the salary schedule, ultimately saving money, Horner said.

“We’re going to continue to refine the data as we go,” Horner said.

He said despite continued efforts to reduce staff, they can’t make many more reductions.

“We truly can’t reduce staff moving forward,” Horner said. “We are as skinny as we can be.”

He said classrooms are full at every grade level and they already are at limited staffing at all levels, from administrators to all certified and classified staff.

Addressing questions from board members, Wapakoneta City Schools Treasurer Susan Rinehart said they are expecting to begin receiving casino payments in January. Payments are expected twice a year, in January and July, and are to be paid on a per student basis by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

The payments are estimated at be approximately $35 per student in January and $50 per student in July, Rinehart said.

Horner said he expects any casino money to be used by the state to replace other funding sources and so it would not be additional money coming into districts, but Rinehart said this year it could help.

“I don’t think the legislators and ODE (Ohio Department of Education) could act fast enough to reduce any revenue,” Rinehart said.

She noted despite some area districts being owed a lot in delinquent taxes, that’s not the case with Wapakoneta.

She described the $130,000 owed to the district as pretty minimal, even though that number is the highest amount she has seen in 20 years.

“Our taxpayers are very diligent actually,” Rinehart said. “We are very fortunate it’s always been low enough to ignore before. I know in other counties it’s significant.”