The Olentangy Local School District (OLSD) approved its latest five-year forecast during Thursday’s meeting of the Olentangy Board of Education. Initially approved in November, Treasurer Emily Hatfield provided an update to the forecast ahead of the close of the 2020-21 school year.
The intent of the forecast is to provide a “roadmap” for the district’s asset management, as well as to “model fiscal responsibility and transparency,” Hatfield said during the presentation. Historical trends and current factors make up the basis for the forecast, although variables can change multiple times throughout the fiscal year, she noted.
Prior to finalizing the forecast, Hatfield met with the Finance and Audit Committee to take a detailed look at the district’s budget before meeting as a larger group to look at the whole forecast. Hatfield said both meetings resulted in “very minor suggestions” to the forecast “but nothing material to the actual assumptions within the forecast.”
According to the fall five-year forecast’s revenues versus expenditures, a deficit of $2,293,539 was shown for fiscal year 2021. After evening out in 2022, the deficit increased from $9,198,910 to $39,509,261 from 2023-25.
OLSD’s informal policy is to maintain a cash reserve balance to cover two to three months of operating costs, which was shown in the November forecast. For 2021, the forecast showed an unreserved cash balance of $87,905,749, good for 120 days of operating costs. The unreserved cash balance dips down to $17,249,925 or 18 days worth of operating costs in the fiscal year 2025, which signals a likely aiming point for the district’s next levy.
In the updated spring forecast, the fiscal year 2021 shows a positive sum of $6,498,695 and a positive sum of $11,821,275 in fiscal year 2022. A deficit of $1,290,367 is shown for fiscal year 2023, and that deficit grows to $31,109,018 in 2025. The number of days with enough cash on hand to covering operating costs has been increased to 134 days this year, and 2025 now shows 64 days of operating costs available based on the dsitrict’s unreserved cash balance.
Factors that led to the changes from fall to spring include positive revenue variances of $1,208,688 in public utility personal property due to valuation increases, $1,054385 in unrestricted grants-in-aid, and $4,076,836 in other operating revenue due to the Polaris II TIF becoming active.
Expenditure variances from the November forecast include decreases of $1,321,127 in personnel services, $1,203,753 in employment benefits, and $1,796,327 in purchased services.
The five-year forecast reflects the addition of Shale Meadows Elementary, which is set to open this upcoming school year, as well as a new middle school opening in 2024 and another elementary opening in 2025. The second elementary school’s opening has been pushed out a year due to the slight slowing of enrollment numbers this year. Hatfield said the additions of the new buildings contributes heavily to the large jump in the revenues versus expenditures portion of the forecast for those years.
Ahead of the approval of the fall forecast in November, Hatfield pointed out the promise made to the community as part of this past spring’s levy that the district would make those funds last three years before beginning to talk about the next levy cycle. As it currently stands, the district is on track to uphold that promise. Hatfield said on Thursday the district will still be able to meet its three-year levy campaign promise and still hopes to extend that promise to four years or more.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.