Sunny financial forecast shows 5-year surplus

By Evan Goodenow -





Surpluses are predicted through 2020 in the Oberlin Schools’ five-year financial forecast, approved May 24 by the board of education.

The district is expected to end the fiscal year June 30 approximately $3.3 million in the black. A nearly $3.4 million surplus is predicted next year, followed by about $3.3 million in 2018.

The estimates s-how surpluses of about $2.8 million in 2019 and $2.1 million 2020.

“That’s a big deal,” school treasurer Angela Dotson told board members.

Dotson said after the meeting that the projected surpluses are due to Oberlin’s two-percent income tax, responsible spending, and state taxpayer funding.

Oberlin, which has a $14.3 million general fund budget this year, received about $3.6 million in state funding this year. While future state funding is difficult to predict, Dotson said she expects it will remain level in the next few years.

Dotson told board members the district is attempting to lower employee health care costs, which rose about 7.4 percent last year. About $300,000 will be spent in the next three years on a worker wellness program designed to reduce health insurance claims.

Oberlin spent about 66 percent of its money in the classroom in the last school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Oberlin ranks 71st of 163 comparable districts in classroom spending. It spends $11,649 per student compared to the Ohio average of $9,228.

The forecast also predicts enrollment in the 1,000-student district will decline to 945, about five percent, by 2020. The decline would be a 14 percent drop from the 1,100 students Oberlin had in 2004.

Board president Ken Stanley attributed the enrollment drop to Oberlin’s aging population. “We’re fighting the tide,” he said.

Efforts to attract students include promoting the district’s International Baccalaureate program in radio advertisements. Students take higher-level courses in the program, which is designed to improve intellectual and social skills.

The ads also promote district collaboration with Oberlin College. “I feel like the district is doing a whole lot of things right to attract more students,” board vice president Anne Schaum said.

The board is also considering proposing levies to replace its aging schools, which could help retain and attract students in addition to reducing maintenance costs, board member Barry Richard said. “We’re in competition with the rest of the county for students,” he said.

In other business:

• Board members approved a one-year, two percent wage hike for Oberlin Ohio Education Association members in the next school year. The union represents about 90 teachers.

• Members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 214 will also receive a one-year, two percent increase in the next school year. The union represents about 70 school employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and teacher’s aides.

Local 214 president Laura Jones and teachers’ union president Robin Diedrick praised Dotson and superintendent David Hall for collaborative, good-faith negotiating.

“We can always trust everything that they tell us to be the truth. We don’t have to worry that there’s something being hidden, ” Diedrick said. “That is not the case everywhere.”

• Board members also approved sending an invoice to the Ohio Department of Education seeking a $2.6 million refund for state money lost to charter schools between 2000 and 2015. Oberlin receives about $3,217 in state money per student. It loses $5,800 per student when they leave for charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

Oberlin had $285,580 deducted for departing charter students in the last school year. Amherst, Elyria, Firelands, Keystone, North Ridgeville, and Sheffield/Sheffield Lake are among the Lorain County school districts seeking refunds from the department and asking the legislature to remove the disparity from the funding formula.

Richard said the formula is “totally unfair.” While districts are highly unlikely to receive refunds, Richard said the invoices bring attention to the disparity.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.




By Evan Goodenow