Cautious optimism in Twinsburg school’s financial forecast

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Treasurer Martin Aho, far right, presented the district's five year forecast at the school board meeting Nov. 18. School districts are required to present five year projections of the budgets in the spring and the fall.

TWINSBURG – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Twinsburg City Schools are expected to maintain a positive cash balance through fiscal year 2024, according to the five year forecast presented to the Twinsburg Board of Education Nov. 18.

However, in the final year, the cash balance for fiscal year 2024 is only expected to be about $3.1 million, said Treasurer Martin Aho.

“Expenditures exceed revenues by $10 million, and there's about $3 million fund balance left,” Aho said. “You can see there's a little bit of fund balance in 2024 but in 2025, there's a real problem with the negative fund balance. Some hard decisions are going to need to be made between now and then.”

According to information presented, the district could wind up more than $10 million in the red by fiscal year 2025 without cuts or additional revenue. In Ohio, schools are not allowed to deficit spend.

Five-year average increase in expenditures between 2016 and 2020 is about 4.1%, Aho said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional staffing and purchase services were required, particularly with nursing, Aho said.  COVID-related expenses so far have added more than $3 million to the district’s expenses, including $1.8 million in personal services, $280,980 in retirement and insurance benefits, and $986,689 in purchased services. Several additional teachers were hired on one-year contracts; Aho said that hopefully “COVID will go away” by the end of the school year.

In fiscal year 2019, expenditures were about $48 million; in FY 2020, expenditures were $50 million. By comparison, the projected expenditures for 2021, including COVID-19 related costs, are estimated at $56.5 million.

As well as increased costs, in May the state decreased school budgets, Aho said. In May, the Twinsburg City Schools saw a  nearly $875,000 reduction to its budget.

“The funding cut hurt,” Aho said. “The COVID funding helped offset that some but we still have to acknowledge the cuts.”

In addition, technology has been increased. “Everyone is 1 on 1 now,” Aho said. “Technology is a big part of school now. When power went out, when we didn’t have internet, we were like ‘what do we do now?’”

Aho said that about 85 percent of the expenditures are for teachers and staff.

“This is a service industry,” he said. “There’s not a lot of room in these budget, there’s not a lot of fluff in the services we are providing.”

Per pupil expenditure in Twinsburg is $11,596, lower than the state’s average of $12,472, Aho said.

Aho said that the district has a $5 million levy due to expire at the end of 2021. The Twinsburg City Schools could have the levy on the ballot in 2021, as early as the May 4 election.

According to records from the Summit County Board of Elections, the levy was last approved by voters in November 2010 as a 10-year, 5.03-mill issue.

The school board voted 4-1 to approve the five-year forecast, with board member Adrienne Gordon casting the dissenting vote. She said she had “asked questions that have been left unanswered.” 

2021-22 school calendar

The school board will schedule a public hearing in the future for residents to give feedback on the proposed 2021-22 school calendar.

Powers said that “because of the pandemic, we are not sure how the new school year will go, so they were very creative” in working with the calendar. One thing the calendar includes is a “soft reopening week,” which the district implemented at the beginning of this school year.

“Parents really appreciated the soft reopening week,” Powers said, adding that the students and staff also appreciated it.

In the proposed calendar for the 2021-22 school year, students and staff would have a soft reopening Aug. 23 through 26, 2021, with Aug. 27 being an in-service day. The first official day of school would be Aug. 30. The final day for students would be May 27, 2022.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com