Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

Coldwater schools unveil rocky five-year plan

By Michael Frank
COLDWATER - Coldwater schools treasurer Jenn McCoy is projecting deficit spending of $336,022 in fiscal year 2024, which ends June 30.
However, McCoy anticipates spending will return to the black in fiscal year 2025 with a net balance of $232,909 before dwindling to $27,234 in fiscal year 2028, according to her five-year forecast presented at Tuesday night's regular school board meeting.
McCoy said the forecast does not include any additional staffing for the middle school when larger classes are expected and also does not include unfunded priorities for infrastructure.
Also, McCoy said "from fiscal year 2020 to 2023, those increases (in expenditures) are being masked by our COVID grants that we received in those years." She added that "we're not allowed to put those grants in our general fund."
Under the current projection, the district will have cash on hand for 94 days in 2024, 96 days in 2026, 97 day in 2026, 96 days in 2027 and 100 days in 2028.
McCoy said that much will also depend on the state Legislature continuing to provide funding.
Mercer County will have its next update for property tax assessments in 2026, which will be collected in 2027.
"Any little changes could drastically change this," McCoy said.
Board member Greg Bruns presented the board with a copy of testimony by Dr. Howard Fleeter before the Ohio Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform on May 8. Fleeter is the research consultant for the Ohio Education Policy Institute.
Fleeter said in his testimony that House Bill 920 enacted in 1976 "is the most restrictive property tax limitation in the country because it allows no inflationary growth on voted levies."
Fleeter noted that the bill was passed during a time of high inflation and large increases in property values.
Bruns pointed out Fleeter's final conclusion that increases in reappraisals do not always translate into revenue increases.
McCoy agreed with this point and emphasized that this leads to misunderstandings about the need for levies.
In March, a proposed school levy was defeated with 71% (1,972 votes) against. It would have replaced the existing 0.5% traditional income tax with a 1.75% earned income tax.
The current 0.5% traditional income tax levy first passed by voters in 1999 generates about $1 million annually.
McCoy also stated that the district hopes to keep the cost of school lunches the same next school year.
"We wanted to hold off this year, since the free lunches were going away. So the families were already going to get hit with paying for them," she said.
McCoy said Coldwater has one of the lowest lunch cost in the area.   "We'll look it again this summer, and then before the school year starts," McCoy said.
Superintendent Doug Mader discussed House Bill 250, which includes language about student cellphone use. Mader said cell phones are not allowed for kindergarten through eighth grade at Coldwater. At the high school level, it's up to teachers to set policy.
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The bill, which has been passed by the House and Senate and sent to Gov. Mike DeWine, would require the Ohio Department of Education to establish a model policy which could be adopted by school districts.     Mader said Coldwater will wait to see what that policy entails.
In other business, board members approved handbooks for band, choral, high school and elementary school for 2024-25.
Summer school fees were set at $200 for one course and $100 for courses after that.
Board members also approved the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. for Oct. 21-24 with Bob Rogers Travel providing transportation.
Graduation ceremonies will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 26.
The next regular meeting is 6 p.m. June 25.
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The Indians score
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Parkway softball got into the third inning of its Division III district semifinal with Van Buren at Bath High School before heavy rain forced the game to be suspended.
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Fort Recovery pitcher Alex Dues signed a national letter of intent on Monday to play at Marietta College.
Dues, who is thinking of majoring in business, said he first heard from Marietta at the end of last summer and got to visit a couple of times over the course of the year.