Michael D. Clark reports:
Lakota Schools have slowed but not stopped its financial bleeding, officials said during Monday evening’s school board meeting.
“There’s not much change bottom-line. We are predicting our spending deficit will return,” said Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan during the district’s five-year, financial forecast, which is mandated bi-annually by state law.
“We are still going to balance our budget this year and need to keep our eye on next year and make decisions,” but Logan, added that “predictability beyond fiscal year 2013 is challenging (and) the long-term financial direction of the district must be addressed.”
She said Lakota faces a $1.8 million projected budget deficit by 2014.
Despite the news last week that Lakota continued its streak of earning the state’s highest academic rating of “Excellent with Distinction” for the 2011-2012 school year, officials at the Butler County district are worried.
Lakota is Southwest Ohio’s second largest school system.
Bus transportation has been eliminated for thousands, classes are larger, and dozens of teacher, building staff positions and central office jobs have been eliminated as budgets have been cut $35 million in the last three school years.
The district’s $146 million operating budget for this school year is less than it spent in 2009. Lakota receives 40 percent of its annual operating budget from state funding and 60 percent from local tax revenue.
Earlier this year, school families in Lakota thought they might see the district try for another school tax hike before the end of 2012. But with the state’s biennium budget proposals coming in early 2013 – and deadline for state funding approval set by that state budget facing a deadline of June 30, 2013 – that unknown budget factor helped prompt district officials’ earlier decision to avoid the ballot this year.
The school board took no budgetary actions after the presentation.
“There are more things we don’t know now than we do know. Additional information is needed before we assume revenue beyond January 2013,” said Logan.