Although the Vinton County Local Schools will have a budget surplus this year, it may get rockier down the road as the district is expecting some large cuts in state funding. This was the message Treasurer Erica Zinn shared with the board of education members during their Monday night, May 15 meeting at South Elementary.
Zinn told the members that unless there are changes in what is happening the legislative process in preparing the state's next biennial budget, she is forecasting the district as losing $600,000. Currently, the school-funding issue is being fought out in the legislature as the bill has passed the House, while a different version is in the Senate. Then a conference committee will iron out the differences and it will be sent to the Governor.
Part of the funding loss, Zinn pointed out, is due to declining student enrollment. However, she stated while the expenditures would exceed revenues starting next year, the district does have a healthy cash balance and she believes, with careful management, the district will be okay until 2021. Zinn also stated the money the schools receive could be impacted by a couple of projects.
Currently, a solar generation plant and medical marijuana facility are being proposed which could impact the district's taxes. Currently, the Invenergy Company of Chicago has plans to purchase 1,100 acres near Zaleski and has a target of generating 120-megawatts of power. The company and the county's Tax Incentive Review Committee are in negotiations for a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement. The county is poised to get about 60-percent of the money, while the rest is expected to be divided between other affected taxing entities in the county. The committee consists of school representation, the Vinton County Auditor and other members.
After the meeting, Zinn told The Telegram that she has not been given any raw numbers on the proposed medical marijuana facility near Hamden or the possible tax implications. She is also hoping the recent business growth in the county will attract people or at least keep current residents from moving away. Currently, there is a grocery store and two dollar stores under construction and a brand new hardware store just opened. Zinn is hoping that over time school enrollment numbers will increase along with taxes.
Zinn pointed out that school funding forecasting is difficult and ever changing. She said that, as is the case with any situation, good management and cost controls are the keys. Additionally, spending money that benefits the students the most is very important.
Superintendent Rick Brooks thanked Zinn for speaking and for keeping a close eye on the district's finances. He is also hopeful that the end result will not be as bad as it looks right now.