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Schools forecast solvent budgets

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At their meeting Thursday, May 9, the Yellow Springs school board approved the rosiest five-year forecast that they’ve seen in the past three years. The current forecast, presented by District Treasurer Dawn Weller, is the first in several years that does not predict deficit spending or a negative cash balance anytime in at least the next five years.

The district was returned to fiscal health after the community approved a major levy in the fall, providing an annual $915,000 boost to district coffers. And the forecast was enough to pursuade the board at Thursday’s meeting to approve a renewal of the permanent improvement levy at its current level, rather than ask for increased funds. The levy is expected to be on the ballot in November.

“We’re recommending that we renew at the current level and spend it wisely,” Weller said of the district’s commitment to no more new taxes for the foreseeable future. However, one of the district’s emergency levies that brings in $1.06 million annually is scheduled to expire in 2015, and will need to be considered for renewal or replacement at that time.

The current five-year forecast assumes the renewal of this year’s permanent improvement levy, which brings in $145,000 annually for capital improvements and fixed-cost purchases. The money is needed this year to restore the roof over the Mills Lawn annex, estimated to cost $90,000. Other capital needs include a new handicapped accessible bus to replace the one that had to be retired this spring. (The district is currently borrowing a bus from the Greene County Career Center.)

Whereas over the past three years, the budget shows the schools spending an average of $550,000 over revenues each year, even after major budget cuts, the current forecast shows a cash bounty. In 2013 the district expects to spend about $200,000 less than it will bring in, and be about $450,000 under revenues for the following two years.

While the district’s cash reserves have covered the past deficit spending, the cash was being depleted. Now the forecast shows the reserves bulking up again to about $2.6 million by 2016.

In other school board business:

• The district is piloting a math intervention and credit recovery program this summer to provide additional instruction for eighth- and ninth-grade students who are struggling with the pre-algebra and algebra skills necessary to graduate from high school. The program is a hybrid learning environment involving one of the district’s math teachers and several online learning providers such as Apex, Khan Academy and TeacherTube.

Concurrently, the district is offering its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) this summer, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative. Students may register for the course offered in collaboration with Antioch University Midwest for one-semester elective credit.

Both summer programs cost $150 per student.

• The board approved the hiring of McKinney physical education teacher Angela Bussey, who will replace Sarah Lowe; two-year contracts with McKinney/YSHS secretary Debra Kimbler; special ed instructional aide Candace Greenwood; Mills Lawn school nurse Michele Brown; bus driver George Fenimore; and volunteer softball coach Waring Worsham.

• The district honored retiring teachers Ellen Guest, Sarah Lowe, Mary Anne Christopher and Cheryl Ayrsman for their service to the schools.

• The board approved a $200,000 contract with the Greene County Educational Service Center for the 2013–14 school year. The center, located across the parking lot from the high school, provides services such as speech therapy, counseling and psychological support.

• For future planning, the school board rescheduled its August meeting to Thursday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m.

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