STOW – The Stow-Munroe Falls School Board on Tuesday approved the district’s five-year budget forecast, with officials looking to renew two levies in 2021 and another tax issue in 2023 to remain in the black.

The district plans to renew the $4 million and $6.5 million emergency levy by 2021 and the $7.3 emergency levy by 2023 to continue the uninterrupted collection of property taxes, district Treasurer Trevor Gummere said.

"The renewal of these levies are crucial to our financial stability,and we will continue to monitor operating revenue," said Gummere in the report.

Gummere said the budget is filed twice a year with the state and currently shows actual fund balances for June 2017 through 2019 and forecasted amounts for fiscal years ending 2020 through 2024.

Revenue is estimated to be $58.4 million for fiscal year 2020, slightly lower than November’s previous forecast of $59 million.

The decrease in total general fund revenue was affected by the decline in state foundation payments for Fiscal Year 2020 due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Gummere said in his report.

Total general fund expenditures are estimated to be $62.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020, slightly less than November’s previous forecast of $63 million.

"With revenues increasing slightly over estimates and expenditures ending below estimates, our ending unreserved cash balance June 30, 2020 is anticipated to be roughly $14.2 million," according to Gummere’s report.

However, the ending unreserved cash balance will be negative of nearly $3 million in Fiscal Year 2022 if the assumptions about state aid or state budget cuts do not change. 

"We don’t quite make it [to a positive balance in 2022] but we can work through it," Gummere said. "The levy expires in 2022 and mass reductions isn’t the route to take. The community supports its schools, and we’re going to tap into the support."

The breakdown on funding sources for the school district is: 59%, real estate taxes; 23%, state foundation money; nearly 9%, other local money; nearly 8%, other state funding; and 1%, tangible tax.

State funding was reduced for the Stow-Munroe Falls School District by $1.178 million for Fiscal Year 2020 and an estimated 10% reduction in 2021 is in the budget.

"One of the things the state wanted us to address was to have a positive balance in 2022," Gummere said. "I’m proud of what the administrative staff did in reductions."

If the state foundation money that is 23% of the district’s revenues takes a 10% reduction from the state, Gummere said it isn’t as bad as other schools who depend on a higher percentage.

"It is impactful but not detrimental," Gummere said. "Stow-Munroe Falls School District depends heavily on local contributions."

A full reappraisal in Summit County occurs in 2020 with property tax collections in 2021 estimated to be 8% higher in residential properties and 2% higher for commercial/industry properties, according to the report.

Wages make up 59% of the general fund operating expenditures, while 22.4% of those expenses go to benefits; 12.6% to services; 2.5% to materials; 1.1% to capital; and 1.3% to other expenses. The forecast budget reflects a 2% base increase for wages in 2020 and 2021.

Since Fiscal Year 2017, the administration has been reducing expenses.

"We did a lot of reorganizing and attacking things differently," said Superintendent Tom Bratten. "We didn’t cut to the bone. What can we do, do well, and be more efficient and that’s what we did. We are operating on 2010 money. We didn’t want to go to the public for a new levy so we restructured."

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com