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.
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