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Jun
26
2022
Yellow Springs School Board

YS Schools budget shortfall delayed slightly

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At the regular meeting of the Board of Education on Thursday, May 12, district Treasurer Jay McGrath presented the revised five-year forecast for the district’s budget for general operations funding. The forecast, which is submitted to the county auditor, is reviewed twice each school year — once in November and again in May — and this month’s update reflected a slightly more optimistic outlook for the district’s finances.

In November, the News reported that former Treasurer Tammy Emrick presented the initial forecast, which concluded that the district would be able to maintain a positive cash balance through the 2024 fiscal year. McGrath’s updated forecast predicts a positive balance through the 2025 fiscal year.

The main reason for the change reflected in the update, McGrath said, is that state grants and income and property tax revenue for the district have been higher than what was predicted in the fall.

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“We’re seeing a significant increase in our three biggest areas of income,” he said.

This year’s revenue is expected to result in a surplus of $969,688, up from the fall estimate of $822,000.

As reported in November and at last month’s board work session, a projected shortfall beginning in the 2026 fiscal year comes alongside the expiration of two emergency operating levies. If those levies are not renewed, the district will operate at a deficit of $1,037,931 for the fiscal year 2026. If the levies are renewed, however, the district is still expected to operate at a deficit of $50,431.

McGrath reiterated his suggestion from the April work session that, at the earliest opportunity in November of 2024, the emergency levies be combined into a substitute levy. This would maintain, but not raise, tax rates for current villagers. At the same time, a substitute levy’s millage could grow to capture tax revenue from any new development in the village over the next several years.

However, McGrath said, even if new development were to expand the village tax base, the rise of revenue is unlikely to be enough to outpace inflation and rising costs.

“So given that, is a substitute levy then not the way to go?” board President TJ Turner asked.

McGrath answered that the board could decide to put an entirely new levy on the ballot, replacing the substitute levy entirely and raising tax rates, but that levies that don’t raise current tax rates for residents are more likely to pass.

Superintendent Terri Holden said that, since asking the community to approve higher taxes will be necessary given the upcoming deficit, it’s the job of the school district to educate people about the need for more revenue.

“There’s danger all around. … It takes some thought and a lot of dialogue with the community,” she said.

Facilities Committee update

Board members Dorothée Bouquet and Judith Hempfling presented an update on the work of the Facilities Committee, which met prior to the school board meeting; a full report on that meeting appeared in the May 19 issue of the News.

Bouquet and Hempfling summarized the committee’s most recent work: collecting questionnaire responses from district staff members on facilities needs, and assessments made by volunteer members of the committee on the state of various parts of school buildings.

The work ahead for the committee, Bouquet said, involves working with district staff to prioritize which of their identified needs should be addressed within one, three and five years.

Hempfling added that committee members who are assessing the buildings will be working on finishing and fleshing out their written assessment reports and that interviews for potential maintenance plan advisor candidates will begin in early June.

Board member Luisa Bieri Rios stated that she was concerned by many of the reports of facilities issues from district staff.

“We must do better,” she said. “The working conditions of our teachers are unacceptable.”

Bieri Rios added that, though she understood the assessments made by committee members were in their first phases, she was “surprised” by some of the findings, such as the initial assessment that the electrical systems in the high school would require little effort to upgrade.

She noted that staff reports sometimes conflicted with the assessments made by committee members.

“I find that hard to believe — that the electrical capacity in the building could require such a quick fix,” she said, citing a staff member’s report of receiving an electric shock when turning on a light.

“It seems like the Facilities Committee members are looking at short-term solutions for what are likely long-standing problems,” she said, and went on to urge the committee to consider the safety of students and staff and to look at issues “thoroughly.”

Hempfling reiterated that the findings were initial, stating that she asked committee members not to pick apart the first reports from staff members and committee assessments, as she felt it would be “quite divisive” in this early stage of the committee’s work.

“Let’s give this process a chance,” she said. “The committee experts are not going to do the final assessment in terms of what it’s going to take to provide good maintenance to these buildings.

We’re going to have to hire someone to do that. … It’s going to take that level of professional expertise.”

Bouquet added that, because the Facilities Committee meeting in May was the first time the reports and assessments had been presented, similar conversations addressing concerns like those highlighted by Bieri Rios have just begun.

“Those discrepancies between the two perspectives — we’ve started talking through some of those,” she said.

In other school board business

The board approved summer school programs in literacy and math for Mills Lawn and math at McKinney middle and YS high school. However, Holden expressed the possibility that the summer school program may not move forward this year, as at the time of the meeting, no teachers had signed on to teach summer classes.

Holden clarified that job postings for summer school positions had been sent out, but that no professional development days had been scheduled this summer in acknowledgement of the difficulty of the last several years for current district staff.

“It’s time for a break,” she said.

To watch the May 12 Board of Education meeting, which is split into three parts, visit bit.ly/3PFyjuf.

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