The first operating levy for Sylvania School District voters since 1996 could be on the ballot in the fall of 2002 as school officials wrestle with an estimated $1 million shortfall.
“We are going to prepare for the worst-case scenario and improve our revenue stream,” Superintendent Lester Schultz said. “We may be going to the voters earlier than we anticipated.”
The district had considered going on the ballot in 2003, but a decrease in state aid is being felt.
Arlene Wilson, the district's treasurer, overestimated the amount of money the district would collect from the state by a little more than $1.2 million.
Ms. Wilson estimated the state would provide the district with $15,875,560. But, the state provided $14,668,198 and personnel and utility costs increased.
The district had a $314,000 increase in real estate taxes that closed the gap slightly.
“The information I had early on from the state was that we were going to get additional dollars,” Ms. Wilson said about the error. “It was fairly well documented, but it was in draft form.”
She informed the board about the problem several months ago.
The shortfall is expected to grow to about $3 million during this fiscal year, which began July 1. But, the district has an $8 million surplus, which provides time for the board to study the issue.
The district, with 12 schools and about 8,000 students, has a $60.4 million budget.
“The bills this month are $4 million,” Ms. Wilson said, adding that money continues to come in. With the surplus, the district would have enough money to pay the bills after the fiscal year ends in June, 2002 with a surplus of an estimated $5 million.
But, the problem comes in the 2003 fiscal year. The surplus will probably be about $500,000 in June, 2003 with estimated bills around $4 million in July, 2003.
“We are looking ahead a couple of years,” Ms. Wilson said.
For the year in Sylvania, total revenue increased by 3 percent, while personnel costs increased 6 percent and contract services, such as utilities, increased by 11 percent, Ms. Wilson said.
She cited rapidly increasing natural gas costs this winter as one of the problems. “It was the natural gas that killed us in a few buildings,” she said.
Ms. Wilson and Mr. Schultz are not ready to make a levy recommendation to the board. The district is waiting to see what happens with school funding on the state level.
Sylvania district voters approved a 1.34-mill bond issue last fall to raise $20.75 million over the next two decades for capital improvements and technology.
The district already has started to cut supplies and materials by 10 percent.