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Five-Year Financial Forecast is ‘Challenging’ for Lakewood Schools

New treasurer Timothy Penton presents the district’s financial outlook to the Lakewood School Board.

Just barely a month into his new job, Lakewood City Schools treasurer Timothy Penton already has his work cut out for him.

Penton, who recently began the post full-time, presented the district’s proposed five-year financial forecast to the Lakewood School Board on Monday night.

And, like other recent five-year forecasts, it revealed that the district is going to need some help if further cuts are to be avoided. 

“The bottom line is that the expenditures are forecast to exceed the revenue each year through fiscal year 2017,” Penton said told the school board on Monday.

“The big picture is that home values are dropping and it is affecting our revenues.” 

In addition, the state slashed its local funding — to the tune of about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2012.

According to the financial projections, by fiscal year 2017, the district’s expenditures will exceed revenues by more than $9 million. 

The revenues are expected to remain relatively flat — at around $67 — for the next five years, according to the data. However, expenditures rise about $2.5 million each year. 

“We’ve already made dramatic reductions in staffing levels and our staff has made concessions on wages and benefits,” he said. “If we don’t’ have revenue coming in, we’ll have to make reductions in the expenditures. And that has a direct impact on our classrooms.”

Penton did not include a passed levy into the five-year-forecast. But officials have said that the district will need to ask voter for additional money soon. The district last passed a levy in 2006.

“Right now, there has only been a discussion about levy and that was done prior to my arrival,” he said. “What the size of that amount would be is only preliminary.”

The deadline to get a levy on the May ballot isn’t until February, leaving the board with some time to decide.

The district has cash reserves on-hand, but those would expire in fiscal year 2016.

“We have reserves because of the district leadership has taken,” he said.

“This district has been proactive, and that has served us positive way.”

School board member Linda Beebe pointed out that Penton didn’t have the opportunity to work on the forecast with former treasurer Rick Berdine, who resigned the post earlier this year.

She also called the way that public schools in Ohio are funded “unconstitutional.”

“This illustrates what the state Supreme Court was talking about 20 years ago,” Beebe said. 

Board president Betsy Shaughnessy noted that the district is “wrestling” with dropping home values.

“We will continue to study this,” said Shaughnessy.

The district is expected to approve the five-year forecast at its Nov. 19 meeting.

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