Big Walnut officials talk finances


SUNBURY — Big Walnut Local School District’s new treasurer gave his first five-year forecast during last week’s Board of Education meeting.

“This district is a huge operation,” said Darren Jenkins on Nov. 17. “The future may be somewhat cloudy.”

It was revealed that the district is projected to be in the black five years from now, but only by enough to keep things operating for 10 days. The board policy is to have a minimum 30-day carryover. Deficit spending would begin in 2025, Jenkins said.

“We need to have some very serious discussions within the next year about this trend and how best to deal with it,” Jenkins said. The board is expected to discuss the forecast during a work session next year.

The latest forecast was not on the district’s website nor available through the agenda. However, the previous forecast through Fiscal Year 2026 (June 30) resulted in an unreserved fund balance of $2.3 million, down from a high of $19.2 million in FY 2023. The district’s annual budget is more than $54 million.

There are multiple variables in play when determining a five-year forecast. Among them is state aid in the Fair Funding Formula, which provides 20% of the district’s funding. Jenkins and Superintendent Ryan McLane recently attended a session on the formula during Ohio School Board Association trade show last week.

“I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a pretty high-ranking state senator, and the question was, will the Fair Funding Formula ever be fully-funded, and this person minced no words and said no,” McLane said. “This is our reality as a school district that we’re working within the confines of the system. We’re never going to receive the full amount that this model attempted to accomplish. No school will.”

Big Walnut School Board Vice President Stephen Fujii said the Fair Funding Formula is a misnomer and should be referred to as House Bill 110, its legislation.

“The Fair Funding Formula is not being kind to us, so let’s stop referring to it as the Fair Funding Formula,” Fujii said.

“Nor has it been kind to most districts around the state,” Jenkins said. “I’m from southern Ohio, and two districts I’m very familiar with are dealing with the same issues on their five-year forecasts. As a team we need to talk very candidly about what we want this district to look like moving forward because we’re going to have to make some decisions in the next year to figure that out. It puts a whole different dynamic on how we operate every day.”

Enrollment was projected to increase, but not taken into account in the forecast was the potential impact of employment from nearby Intel and Honda projects.

Also discussed in conjunction with the forecast was school bus replacement, mental health services, and the fate of the former intermediate school, which is next to what is now the middle school. The original thought was to convert it into an elementary school, but it would take more than $1.2 million to bring it up to code.

In other matters, Jenkins said there were four new records requests. “One was a request that quite candidly involved thousands of emails, so it’s taking some time to process that. For those folks who made those requests, I ask for their patience,” he said.

By Gary Budzak

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Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at the above email address.

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