by Daniel M. Romano, CFO & Treasurer
West Clermont Schools
Most of us probably remember seeing an image of a scale, whether while learning about the scales of justice in government class or in a science class. This image always comes to mind when I think about West Clermont’s call to maintain balance within our district, specifically in the areas of finance, staffing and enrollment, and facilities.
The Board of Education approved our 5-year forecast at its last board meeting. The forecast shows that we have a stable balance — for now. Like districts across Ohio, we are fighting to maintain, and even increase, the level of support we receive from the state. In recent years, we have become increasingly reliant on local funding, to the tune of 63% of our budget for FY23.
House Bill 110 and the Fair School Funding Plan, passed in 2021, limited district funding to FY19 levels, but our world, and particularly education, has changed drastically since then. Ohio’s next biennium budget is expected to be signed into law at the end of June, but as of now, the impact to our district from the Fair School Funding Plan is expected to remain unchanged moving forward.
ESSER funding, which allowed us to invest in our Onward and Upward initiative focusing on people, programs and processes, as well as collection of the emergency levy revenue have helped us level the scales. However, increased enrollment and post-COVID inflation rates are projected to throw our balance off kilter by FY25, when we expect expenses to outpace revenues.
We are committed to continuing to make the best use of the dollars entrusted to us by routinely evaluating our practices to look for greater efficiencies, and finding alternative funding sources through grants and community partnerships.
Staffing and enrollment are another area where one side of our scale is currently being weighed down. We are in the midst of a national teacher shortage. In fact, there was a 24.2% decrease in students graduating from postsecondary institutions with teaching degrees between 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Ohio’s rates are even higher than the national average. Locally, West Clermont lost 8% of its staff throughout the 2022-2023 school year due to a variety of reasons including retirement, teachers leaving the profession, or finding a position with a higher salary or one closer to home. On the other side of the scale, enrollment is expected to increase by about 800 students over the next five years. Our facilities are of course impacted by these factors. Our staffing and enrollment challenges mean higher burnout rates for staff, larger classroom sizes, and the addition of modulars.
At West Clermont, we strive to take a proactive rather than reactive approach by focusing on finding dynamic educators and retaining them by fostering a culture of engagement and well-being. And to alleviate our enrollment and facilities demands, we:
- Completed redistricting of elementary school boundaries (2019-20 school year)
- Reduced open enrollment to ensure we have space for our own students first (2022-23 school year)
- Honored building to building transfer requests to help with overcrowding at certain grade levels and schools (Ongoing)
- Purchased modulars where other solutions were not sufficient (2022-23 school year)
- Continue to explore how to redesign our current space until a more permanent master facilities plan is developed and funded (Ongoing)
We are grateful for our community’s input and ideas for balancing our scales. Stay tuned for additional engagement activities this fall where discussion on these topics will continue.