On June 27, the Worthington Schools Board of Education voted to place two issues on the Nov. 8 ballot. The decision to place these issues on the ballot came after months of discussion led by our district leadership team with the board, staff and community members.
Worthington projects a positive fund balance for the next four years. However, deficit spending begins this year and escalates annually. This is mainly due to the fact that our District is primarily funded through local property taxes, and Ohio laws prohibit inflationary growth in property tax revenue for school districts. Our last incremental operating levy, approved in 2018, was projected to last four years, and it has. It’s now fully phased in, and because of this Ohio law, our revenue is projected to be flat, while expenses, especially in this inflationary environment along with our increasing enrollment, continue to grow. Although the state implemented a new school funding formula, the net increase to our district, as an above average wealth suburb, is very little. Our projected unreserved fund balance will go from $72 million at the end of the 21-22 school year to only $6 million at the end of 2026. For these reasons, the Board of Education has begun the process to put an incremental operating levy on the ballot this fall. The request is identical to the one approved in 2018 and asks for an additional 2.9 mills next year along with a 2 mill increment each of the following 3 years for a total increase of 8.9 mills over a four year period. We project this levy will again last at least four years.
Over the past 16 years, Worthington has operated in a fiscally responsible manner. Our annual expenditure growth during this period of time has been 2.58% on average, in line with the average Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment of 2.23% during that time. However, State Funding is not keeping pace. Over that same time period, state funding has only grown on average 1.6%, well below inflation and cost of living adjustments.
Incremental operating levies are phased in to meet the needed expenses of the school district, instead of being collected all at one time. This would help fund day-to-day operations for the district including staffing, utilities, instructional supplies, and services.
The second is a combined bond and permanent improvement issue. The $234 million bond issue would fund Phase 2 of our Master Facilities Plan. As we’ve shared previously, Phase 2 involves renovating and replacing most sections of Thomas Worthington High School, renovating Worthington Kilbourne High School and replacing the natatorium. The changes to Thomas Worthington will include creating a larger cafeteria, while also adding and modernizing science labs and other flexible learning spaces. At Worthington Kilbourne, the upgrades will be centered around allowing more natural light into student areas, installing a new roof, and modernizing the heating and cooling systems.
The permanent improvement ballot issue would help meet the district’s ongoing needs for school buses, maintenance of our facilities, back-end technology, playground equipment, and furniture.
If both issues are passed on Nov. 8, taxes will increase by approximately $203 per $100,000 of appraised home value (per the county auditor, not Zillow!) in year one, and go up by $70 per year per $100,000 of assessed home value for the next three years.
We will share more information about these issues later this summer. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
-Trent Bowers Superintendent