Levy Facts

Levy Facts

For the first time in 6 years, Kenston Schools is asking voters for additional funds to continue providing outstanding instruction and the upkeep of district facilities.

On May 4, 2021, we ask voters to support a combination 6.5 mill levy for a continuous period of time. 

April 28, 2021 - Talking to the Treasurer

LEVY ANSWERS – FROM THE OFFICE OF THE TREASURER

It has come to my attention that some open-ended questions are circulating in the community. We have heard the questions and want you to have the answers to make your decision on Election Day.

How much of the recent $200 billion federal COVID relief bill for K-12 schools will Kenston receive?
Between March 2020 and September 2024, Kenston will receive $1.6 million from the federal COVID relief bill. This equates to a total of approximately $615 per student over four years. These funds will be used in coordination with the district’s response to the coronavirus, including purchasing personal protective equipment and supplies to clean and sanitize, educational technology, and staff to reduce class sizes for in-person learning.

Student enrollment has been declining steadily over the last five years. How does this affect the budget?
Yes, enrollment has decreased. In recent years, Kenston has experienced approximately a 2% reduction or about 50 students per year across the district in grades K-12.

This minimal decline was a factor in the districts’ ability to stretch the 2015 levy beyond its expected three (3) years to six (6) years. During this time, the administration annually reviewed enrollment numbers and class size per grade and building to adjust staffing levels. Through resignations, retirements and attrition, staffing was realigned to address class size, offerings and student population. While the district experienced cost savings due to staffing reductions, other expenses were fixed regardless of the number of students attending school, like property, liability and fleet insurance, and utility costs.

The former Geauga Lake property is being redeveloped and will bring in additional tax revenue for the school, correct?
In the future, we hope this will be true. Today, construction slated for the Bainbridge Township parcels are still in the conceptual phase, with negotiations ongoing. Plans for development have not been finalized. There is no reliable estimate as to the amount of additional tax revenue the project would generate or when the district would receive any funds. We must move forward based on the information and funding that is definite, not what MIGHT be. When and if a commercial property or development breaks ground, any funds generated could be used to extend the life of the current levy.

How much money will be freed up when the bond to build the high school is paid off?
$0 will go to the district when the last of the high school bonds are paid off in December 2029. When the existing 4.9 mill bond issue is paid off in 2029, residents will no longer pay taxes related to that bond issue as a part of their property tax bill.

Why do schools tend to rely on continuing levies?
A continuing levy provides a certain and reliable funding source. This allows the district to plan for future needs related to educational programs and staffing. This is not new or unique – it is the way most Ohio public schools fund their operations and improvements.

Where does the money go?
Schools are a people business. The majority of our expenses are the salaries of our employees. Kenston’s educators are our greatest asset and most significant expense, which is typical in school districts. Kenston’s teachers are highly educated, with 77% holding their Master’s Degree and 4 with Doctorates. Our teachers have an average of over 14 years of experience.

Why is Kenston putting a levy on the ballot now?
The timing of the levy is based on the forecasted need for additional revenue. The projections showed a need in 2022. Placing a ballot issue on during the November 2020 Presidential Election would have been premature and during the height of the pandemic.

May 2021 was the first opportunity to ask voters to address this need. If passed, collection of funds in January 2022, when dollars are needed. Approval of a May issue allows for planning and budgeting for the upcoming school year.

If the May levy fails, the Board of Education will evaluate placing an issue on the November ballot – and at the same time, plan cuts if it doesn’t pass.

Does Kenston have a cash balance?
Yes, the district has a cash balance in its account. Several unexpected revenue sources were received due to COVID and other factors (return from the State Foundation program, collections of real estate and delinquent taxes exceeded projections, and premium refund from the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation). These funds, while helpful, still leave the district without sustainable, long-term funding to maintain the educational programming and preserve district facilities.

Prudent financial planning and Board Policy 6210 require that if the cash balance of at least 45 days of operating expenses in the general fund may not be achieved within the first three years of the current five-year forecast that a plan will be made to address the financial needs of the educational program.

Based on the February 2021 five-year forecast, the district will have a cash balance of a little over $1 million or nine (9) days of operating expenses on June 30, 2023.

I recognize and share your frustration with the way Ohio schools are currently funded and the system in place. These are the rules that all Ohio schools have to follow.

Transparency is important. I welcome your questions and requests to understand how school funding works and how we are responsible stewards of your tax dollars.

Election Day, May 4, is an important day for the Kenston Schools. Please make time to vote.

Paul J. Pestello

Levy Facts

District Achievements

Kenston Levy Fact Flyer

School Financing Videos

Ohio School Funding

WKYC - HB920

What is an operating levy?
Operating levies provide school districts money for day-to-day expenses such as staff salaries, supplies, utilities, transportation, activities and programming. A school levy is a local tax on the value of all residential and business property in a school district.

Local school boards recommend levies for school funding, the community votes on the levy and the county collects the taxes and distributes the funds to the school district. An operating levy, once approved by the voters is subject to a reduction factor each year pursuant to HB920 (legislation passed in 1976). This means the taxes collected on the property will not exceed the amount collected at the property’s value in the first year the taxes are collected. Although property values may increase while the levy is in effect, the amount of taxes collected on those properties do not increase, thereby restricting an increase to taxes as the value of the property increases over time.

What is a permanent improvement levy?
A permanent improvement levy is for capital improvements, repairs & maintenance to facilities and for equipment with a useful life of at least five (5) years. Funds generated by the permanent improvement levy cannot be used for current operating expenses such as personnel, benefits and instructional supplies.

School Funding Overview

How will funds from the permanent improvement levy be used?
The $1.6 million annually generated by the permanent improvement levy will be used to protect the community’s investment in its facilities providing for the continued long-term care of our valued capital assets. Funds will be used for the upkeep and repair of District facilities instead of using dollars from the General Fund. Some of these projects include:*
– Safety and security improvements
– Technology infrastructure and equipment
– Roof work and repairs
– HVAC updates/replacements
– Plumbing, lighting, electrical, well/septic and structural repairs and improvements
– Increased preventative maintenance budget
– Maintenance of athletic facilities and fields
– Parking lot maintenance
– Purchase of buses, vans and other maintenance vehicles

*This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a list of large capital improvements.

In 2020, the district proactively commissioned an independent firm to conduct a thorough facility assessment in preparation of asking residents for a continuous permanent improvement levy for the first time.

Why an operating and permanent improvement levy at the same time?
As in many households, projects and improvements are often deferred to stretch budgets. While Kenston has always done routine maintenance, there comes a time when infrastructure and systems need to be replaced or upgraded while at the same time additional operating revenue is required to meet the District’s educational programming.

Passage of this levy will enable Kenston to continue educational programs and protect the investment the community has already made in our school facilities by providing funds specifically for the care, upkeep and improvements to district buildings and grounds.

Why do schools come back to voters every three or four years for additional funding?
In most schools, real estate tax dollars account for the largest portion of revenue, and in our District, real estate taxes account for approximately 75% of total revenue. HB 920 enacted in 1976 restricts tax growth as property values increase, but because expenses continue to rise (just like in your own home), schools ask voters to approve levies to keep up with increasing costs related to educating students.

During the periods between levies, school districts are faced with increasing costs and flat revenues. The levy amount is set to accommodate this increase by collecting more than is spends in the early years to make up for a projected deficit in its later years. Kenston has already passed the Critical Point, where expenditures are exceeding revenue [known as deficit spending] each year resulting in a declining cash balance.

Why is Kenston coming back to voters now; people are struggling with challenges presented by COVID?
There is no right time to ask voters to increase taxes; Kenston knows that. Operating levies typically last for three to four years, but Kenston through diligent fiscal management has remained off the ballot since the 2015 operating levy. Since the passage of the 2015 levy, the district management team has continued to work tirelessly seeking out more effective and efficient ways of operating the district and has implemented cost saving measures reducing future costs by more than $2 million since 2016.

The Board of Education receives and approves a detailed monthly spending plan which provides revenue and expenditures estimates for the month, the quarter and the fiscal year-to-date along with actual revenue and expenditure amounts and a narrative explaining significant differences. Additionally, as required by the Ohio Revised Code, bi-annually [or more often if necessary], Treasurer Paul J. Pestello, provides a Five-Year Financial Forecast to our Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education. The forecast requires districts to evaluate their General Fund for potential long-term outcomes when making current decisions about new initiatives and funding existing programs and services over multiple years. The multi-year budgeting process lends itself to meeting both short and long-term goals while maintaining financial solvency.

As early as October 2019, the need for an operating levy was discussed when reviewing the 5-year forecast. Expenditures would begin exceeding revenue each year resulting in a declining fund balance falling below the guidelines set forth in Board Policy 6210. It should be noted that deficit spending (expenditures exceeding revenue) does not suggest mismanagement or misappropriation of district funds, rather it signals the current levy cycle is growing closer to a conclusion.

Based on the 5-year forecast submitted in September 2020 [reflecting extremely conservative estimates as a result of the pandemic], Kenston will have a projected ending cash balance of only $626,573 on June 30, 2022 and a projected deficit of nearly $5.4 million on June 30, 2023.

(UPDATE 2/8/2021):

The five-year forecast was updated and approved at the February 8, 2021 Board of Education Meeting to reflect changes in the forecast.  The February 2021 forecast reflects a revised estimate with increases from the State Foundation program, actual collections of real estate and delinquent taxes exceeded projections and an unexpected dividend check and premium refund from the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation.

Based on the latest information, the district will have a cash balance of a little over $1 million (approximately nine days of operating expenses) on June 30, 2023.

The forecast is a “snapshot” in time and will continue to be updated as additional information become available.

Five-Year Forecast

What will the combined 6.5 mill levy cost?

$228/per year per $100,000 of housing valuation ($19/month) of home value as identified “market value” on the Geauga County Auditor’s website. Here is how you can determine the tax increase based on the value of your home:

Market Value x 35% x .0065 [6.5 mills] = Tax Increase per year

Example: $100,000 x .35 x .0065 = $227.50 additional per year.

General Fund Revenue

For the most part, Ohio public schools receive the majority of funding from property taxes and the State Foundation program.  Because Kenston is considered a wealthy district by the State of Ohio [high property values being the leading indicator], we receive a lesser amount of State Foundation funding than 95% of school districts in the State and must rely on property taxes and other local revenue.  As a matter of fact, Kenston receives approximately 9% of its operating revenue from the State Foundation program and approximately 75% of its operating revenue from property taxes.  The remaining 16% comes from other local sources (about 8%) and the homestead and rollback reimbursement from the State of Ohio (about 8%).

Of the 600+ Ohio school districts, Kenston in the bottom 5% of the state funding list.

Ohio public schools are primarily funded from two sources.

  1. The State of Ohio Foundation Program contributes money based on the State Foundation Formula which provides Basic Aid to districts, taking into account the ability each district has to raise local taxes plus the per student minimum amount the state determines is necessary to provide an adequate education.  In return, the state requires its public schools to meet certain funded mandates and many unfunded or partially funded mandates.  Kenston Schools receives approximately 9% of its operating budget from the State of Ohio’s State Foundation program.

The specific state formula is very complicated and often changes, especially in recent years. The Ohio Supreme Court found the funding system of Ohio’s public schools unconstitutional in 1997 and the legislature has not given it the “complete systematic overhaul” required by the Court since that finding.

  1. Local Support is provided mostly by the community in the form of approved property tax levies. Some communities in the State have approved income tax levies in addition to, or in lieu of, property tax levies to assist in funding their schools.  Kenston Schools has not sought an income tax levy and has only approved property tax levies.

Property owners, business owners and public utilities are taxed on the value of the real property. The county auditor appraises real property every six years.  Every third year property values are subject to an “update” based on a number of factors including but not limited to recent sales and inflationary factors.  The appraisal is the auditor’s value [known as market value] for tax purposes and may or may not be reflective of what the property might sell for.  Taxes are calculated based on the assessed value of the property which is 35% of the appraised or market value as determined by the County Auditor.

Below are the major revenue sources of the district and includes the amount and the percent to total received in fiscal year 2020 [July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020].

General Fund Revenue

General Fund Expenditures

General Fund expenditures consist of personnel costs [salaries and benefits], purchase services, supplies and materials, capital outlay, dues and fees and non-operating [transfers and advances to other Funds].

Because schools are a service organization, the largest expenditure is personnel costs related to staff.  As a matter of fact, most school districts spend between 75% and 85% of every dollar on personnel costs.  Kenston is no exception and spends just over 80% of every dollar on personnel.  The remaining 20% is spent on purchased services, supplies and materials, capital outlay, dues and fees transfers and advances to other Funds of the district.

Purchased services include but are not limited to:  certain instructional services, data processing services, legal services, other professional and technical services, trash removal, repairs and maintenance services, insurance on buildings, content and vehicles, utilities, and tuitions for special education and vocational students.

Materials and supplies purchases include but are not limited to: instructional supplies and materials, textbooks, software materials, chrome books, library books, digital resources, custodial supplies, bus parts and bus fuel.

Capital Outlay is primarily for the purchase or equipment which has a useful life of greater than five (5) years.

 Dues/Fees/Other include but are not limited to:  district liability insurance, audit charges, County Auditor/Treasurer fees associated with property tax collection and bank charges for services.

Transfers/Advances is funds provided to other Funds of the district which require additional funding.  The Permanent Improvement Fund receives a transfer of funds of approximately $460,000 each year pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code.  The General Fund also transfers funds for athletics and in some year’s nutrition services.

Below are the major expenditure categories of the district and includes the amount and the percent to total spent in fiscal year 2020 [July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020].

 

General Fund Expenditure

School Funding Glossary of Terms