2011-05-21 / News

Lakewood reviews forecast

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – It’s never too early to consider the future.

“We look good now, but we have to start thinking ahead,” said Lakewood School District Treasurer Glenna Plaisted, who presented the district’s five-year financial forecast to Lakewood School Board members during their May 12 meeting. The board met on a special night, Thursday night; it generally meets on Wednesday night.

Plaisted said that as of 2015, the district could be facing a $5 million deficit. Even if voters renew a 5.8 mill emergency levy in 2013, the district could still face a $2 million deficit by 2015. The levy generates just over $2 million a year for the district.

“I would estimate that if the renewal passed and using the assumptions that are in the forecast, then we could still need $2 million. However, it’s the plan to start addressing that potential deficit beginning next year, so that we won’t get to that point in 2015,” she said Monday. “It will be up to the board whether they want to go back on the ballot in 2013 for a renewal of the current five-year emergency levy passed in 2008.”

Plaisted projected that the district will lose $1,177,405 of federal and state revenue for fiscal year 2012. This total includes $103,733 in electric deregulation funds which is gone after fiscal year 2011 and $351,388 lost each year during the next seven years as Tangible Personal Property Tax reimbursement is phased out. The reimbursement payments were intended to partially offset fthe loss of income as the Tangible Personal Property Tax was phased out. Now that tax only applies to public utility personal property and will be restricted further as it will no longer be assessed on telephones and telecommunications property after 2011. The district will also lose $218,035 in foundation funding (basic state funding) and a total of roughly $504,000 in federal stimulus money.

On top of that, Plaisted said at the end of 2010 property taxes due the district but not collected totaled $895,379. The district received $431,031 in delinquent taxes in 2010.

“That’s huge. We don’t know when we’ll collect that money,” she said. It’s Licking County’s responsibility to retrieve those funds. Plaisted said Monday, “The district should collect some of those delinquent taxes during 2011, but we won’t know the dollar amount until in the fall of 2011. We should collect all delinquent taxes at some point, but it can vary as to the length of time it can take.”

On the expenditure side, payments for employees and their benefits account for 78 percent of district expenditures. Contracts for both teachers and classified employees expire June 30. Last year both unions accepted a oneyear extension with no increase in base pay, but members received step (longevity) increases.

Plaisted is projecting that salary expense will increase 3.4 percent per year from fiscal year 2012 –which begins July 1, 2011 – through fiscal year 2015 which ends June 30, 2015. She is estimating an average increase of 15 percent per year in the cost of health insurance for fiscal years 2011 through 2015.

Board member Forrest Cooperrider said the district administration needs to create a plan so the district’s not $5 million short in 2015.

In other school board news:

• Lakewood parent Catherine Conrad told board members that her middle school son was assaulted on school property. “How are you addressing bullying in the middle school,” she asked. “If I were to assault a teacher like that, I’d be in (hand) cuffs.” Conrad didn’t believe the incident was handled correctly and worried the person who assaulted her son would do so again.

“We have a policy that doesn’t allow bullying,” said board President

Judy White. “I’m sure our administration has followed policy.”

“One student became physically aggressive toward another and the administration immediately intervened,” said Lakewood Middle School Principal Jim Riley Tuesday. “Our policy is, has been, and remains zero tolerance.” He said the district defines bullying as any intentional, persistent and repetitive written, verbal, graphic, electronically transmitted, or physical act that a student or group of students exhibits toward another student and the behavior both causes mental or physical harm to the other student, and is sufficiently severe that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the victim.

Riley said the middle school has taken many steps to address bullying, including a series of short anti-bullying videos shown to all students, anti- bullying posters created and displayed in various parts of the building (a student-led project) and the school purchased and distributed anti-bullying literature in the form of bookmarks. “These bookmarks displayed the ‘no bullying’ theme and listed important anti-bullying messages,” said Riley. Topics listed on these bookmarks were also discussed in class. “Whenever students make their way to the office for ‘less than desirable’ behavior toward another student, the administration and guidance department always make it a point and a priority to warn and stress the importance of anti-bullying behavior and why such behaviors should never occur,” he said. Riley said staff members take a very active role in practicing bullying prevention by monitoring and observing students closely each and everyday.

• Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer said the Federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires all schools to serve drinking water in cafeterias in addition to whatever water fountains the school possesses. He said Lakewood would comply beginning next school year.

• Board members have so far reached no conclusion regarding the possibility of charging students for transportation to and from athletic events. Previously, Athletic Director Bo Hansen asked board members about options for paying for athletic team transportation. Covering transportation expenses became the athletic department’s responsibility when the district trimmed $1 million from its budget last year. Simply put, Hansen said the athletic department depends upon money from ticket sales to cover expenses, and there’s not enough money being generated to pay for everything. He wondered if the district could cover some of the expenses from the general fund. Hansen wants to avoid charging students if at all possible.

“I’d like to pick it up in the general fund, but I’m not sure that’s a good move,” said Cooperrider. He said he realizes that charging students wouldn’t be a popular decision. “We don’t have a recommendation yet,” said Cooperrider, but he hopes the board will have one by its next meeting.

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