|April 6, 2017
by Superintendent Tim Dettwiller
We are in the final marking period in Madison-Plains as a new season springs. Here are a few brief notes about what’s keeping us moving along.
Community support critical to continue programming
District officials are looking to an August 2017 ballot issue to avoid a fiscal crisis of more than $1 million.
The M-P Board of Education last week took the first step in placing an emergency operating levy on the ballot by approving a resolution requesting certification from the Madison County Auditor. Two votes by the M-P board are required by the state to place a levy on the ballot; the second of those two votes is scheduled for the its April 18 regular meeting.
Parents and community members met the previous week at the March MPAC meeting and came to the same conclusion: the district will need more revenue to maintain current programming.
The district’s General Fund — the source for daily operations including salaries, benefits and supplies — is projected to have a negative balance in school year 2019-2020. The impending deficit is not a surprise. The district administration and board have been following a 10-year financial plan created in May 2012 to reduce projected operating costs and stretch available funds as far as possible.
Treasurer Todd Mustain provides a fiscal health update at every board meeting and during most of the monthly Madison-Plains Advisory Council meetings with community members. The 10-year plan and the state's required five-year forecast are available at www.mplsd.org.
Taxes in the district have not increased in nearly 12 years.
New operating money was last approved in 2005, which is unheard of. Districts in Ohio are typically on the ballot every three to four years for new funds.
The Board has discussed a number of options to balance the budget, including the possibility of an earned income tax to lessen the burden on property owners and reducing services.
The general consensus, however, among board members, parents and residents is the same: cutting services to balance the budget would be detrimental to current programming.
That said, we will continue to operate in a fiscally conservative manner. We constantly ask ourselves: Is this the right way to do things? Is this efficient and a good use of taxpayer dollars? Are there other options to consider?
The board will meet at 7 p.m. on April 18 in the district meeting room inside Madison-Plains Elementary.
Madison-Plains and the state budget
The state legislature is reviewing Gov. John Kasich's proposed biennial budget. So are school officials across the state, particularly in Madison-Plains.
The current proposal includes a provision that could have a significant negative impact on the district. The governor has suggested a phased-in reduction of reimbursement for transportation costs — an issue of critical concern for rural districts, in particular, that cover hundreds of square miles.
The district's new two-tier busing program that begins this fall holds off the deficit for an entire school year, but a future state funding reduction would prove troublesome.
The valuation the state places on farmland, compounds the issue. On paper, M-P looks wealthy. The majority of operating revenues for most rural districts comes from the state of Ohio but in Madison-Plains we rely on local residents for about 50 percent of our daily funding.
The state reviews and approves a new budget every two years. School districts are required to prepare five-year forecasts and are prohibited from starting a school year with a deficit.
In turn, district treasurers must make assumptions using the state’s existing school funding formula when preparing the forecast. M-P Treasurer Todd Mustain is always conservative in projections and doesn’t factor increases in funding, though can’t predict specific reductions until the governor releases his proposal.
If the state budget is approved as presented, Madison-Plains will fall $1.28 million short in school year 2019-20, underscoring the need for new funds. The state will provide a partial payback for transportation services the first two years but, if passed as proposed, the district will have to make up for lost state revenues.
The state’s biennial budget must be approved by June 30.
Thanks for taking the time to read -- and stay current with -- these critical updates. We certainly will keep you informed about developments. Be sure to stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for a variety of news.