by Daniel M. Romano, CFO and Treasurer
West Clermont Schools
Enrollment has been the subject of many conversations at West Clermont in recent months. It’s a hot topic because it directly impacts every facet of our educational system, from our finances and facilities to staffing, busing and curriculum.
Our latest numbers show that enrollment is stable and we are projected to have steady growth over the next five years. The most important thing to understand about enrollment is that it is a constantly moving target based on a variety of factors, including new construction in the district and families choosing other educational options.
One of the biggest trends we are seeing is that enrollment is happening disproportionately across our district. Our incoming classes are getting larger and the number of diverse learners is increasing. These factors put a strain on our elementary schools in particular. Even with moderate enrollment projections, five of our seven elementary schools do not have enough space to accommodate all of our staff and learners.
We are assessing our current practices to ensure that we are continuing to commit to excellence with every learner, every day, every way. One example of this is that we decreased the number of open enrollment acceptances due to limited space beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. Another example is we added modular classrooms at Merwin Elementary.
We will continue to closely monitor our enrollment picture and the need for educators on a cart, additional modulars, redistricting elementary boundaries, and intradistrict transfers.
Now, let’s turn our attention to finances. Public schools in Ohio must approve a 5-year forecast in November and May each year for the current fiscal year. For example, the forecasts approved this November and next May are for fiscal year (FY) 24, which runs from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The forecast includes three years of actual numbers and five years of revenue and spending projections.
West Clermont Schools is expected to have a positive cash balance through June 30, 2027, however, in FY26, there is a projected spending deficit. This is the result of several factors.
- Inflation - Inflation hit a 40-year high last year, which impacts our utilities, staff benefit packages, and more.
- State funding - We will see an increase in funding from the state’s Fair School Funding Plan in FY24 and possibly FY25. However, there is no guarantee that the plan will be funded past FY25.
- Phase out of COVID-19 relief dollars - Schools received three rounds of ESSER, or federal COVID-19 relief money. Funding from the third and final round must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024. Any initiatives implemented to help close the learning gap caused by the pandemic, such as our Onward and Upward investments, must then come from our general fund. The district has planned for this from the beginning and has built these ongoing expenses into the general fund budget.
- Property reappraisals and legislation - House Bill 187 and Senate Bill 153 are currently moving through the legislative process. The original bills propose a three-year averaging for the 2023 property value reappraisals. It is anticipated that the bills will be amended to remove the three-year averaging and add an enhancement and extension to the Homestead Rollback property tax exemptions providing targeted relief to certain homeowners.
In short, our total revenue is expected to grow by less than 1% over the next five years while expenses are estimated to grow, on average, by 5.1% each year.
As always, we strive to make the best use of our taxpayer dollars by looking for efficiencies and seeking grants and other alternative revenue sources so that we can continue to be an on the RISE district.
Mark your calendar for our next Town Hall meeting on Jan. 18, 2024. RSVP today to be part of charting our future!