CUYAHOGA FALLS — If voters are concerned about how the Woodridge Local School District spends their tax dollars, they should get a clearer picture of the district’s finances just before they go to vote in November.
Representatives from the state auditor’s office are working on a performance audit of the district operations, the district announced Monday.
Treasurer Tom Morehouse said that the results are expected to be released before the district’s October five-year forecast, and before the Nov. 6 general election, for which the district is working to place a $4 million levy on the ballot. The school board voted to ask the Summit County Fiscal Office to certify the tax valuation of the district and calculate the number of mills required to generate the $4 million. This is the first of two steps needed to place the five-year operating levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The school board is expected to vote on the second step, which would ask the Summit County Board of Elections to place the levy on the ballot, at its July 17 meeting. This will be the district’s third attempt at a levy since November 2017.
"Right, wrong or indifferent, hopefully they [voters] will see our need and things will go our way in the November election," said board of education Member David Lydic.
The performance audit is expected to analyze subjects such as the district’s student-teacher ratio, staffing, collective bargaining agreements, busing, cafeteria services and more, and compare the district to similar districts, said Superintendent Walter Davis.
"They do this all the time for districts," Davis said. "We are working always to improve operations, identify potential cost savings and produce a sustainable, balanced budget. We welcome the audit team to the district and look forward to the process."
The audit will not look at special education and IEPs, and items that are federally funded, Davis added.
Davis said the state auditor’s office contacted the district about performing a performance audit after the November 2017 levy failed and a projected budget deficit was forecast for the district. Under Woodridge Local Schools’ current five-year forecast, the district is projected to have a $687,983 deficit by fiscal year 2019, and will be nearly $5.6 million in the red by fiscal year 2020 without added revenue or budget cuts.
Davis said the auditor’s office will pay for the audit, which will evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of district functions.
"They initially contacted me sometime in December, I believe, after our first levy failed," Davis said. "They agreed to wait to see what happened with the May election, but when it failed we agreed it would be a good thing to do the performance audit. They monitor school districts’ five-year forecasts to look to see which districts have significant forecasted deficits."
The state auditor’s office "has acknowledged our funding situation is unique," Davis said. Woodridge Local Schools receives about $740 per student from the state, compared to the county average of about $3,400 per student. Only nine districts in Ohio receive less state aid per pupil, Davis said.
Morehouse said the district will also have the chance to respond to aspects of the auditor’s report.
The audit process includes interviews with individuals associated with district operations and are performed using criteria from a number of sources including peer districts, industry standards, leading practices, statutes, and policies and procedures, according to information provided by the district.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??