School districts throughout Ohio received a partial state refund when Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order on Jan. 22. But despite the return of $181,000, Treasurer Paul Pestello said the Kenston Local School District still needs to place a levy on the May 4 ballot.

“I want to stress and emphasize to you that even though our bottom line has improved in fiscal year 2021 and then obviously in those forecasted years extending out, it does not change our trajectory related to the need to be on the ballot for additional real estate dollars related to a tax levy that is on the ballot here for May,” Mr. Pestello said at the Feb. 8 school board meeting.

In January, the board passed a resolution to place a 6.5-mill continuing levy on the primary ballot this spring. In the revised five-year forecast, Mr. Pestello explained that it is a combination of 4.75 mills for operating expenses and 1.75 mills for permanent improvements.

In May of 2020, Gov. DeWine cut state foundation aid to districts to help balance the state budget before the end of the fiscal year, which was on June 30. That action was in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic Kenston lost $360,000 from that cut, Mr. Pestello said. With Gov. DeWine’s executive order, $181,000 of that $360,000 has been restored, which Mr. Pestello said was “wonderful to hear.

“The forecast puts us in a better situation in February than it did for the forecast that you approved in September,” Mr. Pestello told board members.

School districts must submit a five-year forecast to the Ohio Department of Education twice a year, typically in November and May. The treasurer said that the state education department recommends revising the forecast more often if there are significant changes to the district’s revenues or expenditures. Other changes also factored into Mr. Pestello’s decision to update the five-year forecast.

In the last forecast, he estimated that Kenston’s state foundation aid in fiscal year 2021 would be 17 percent lower than it was in fiscal year 2020. His estimate was $2.95 million but now the district is on track to receive about $3.8 million, noting a difference of $850,000. The district also received a dividend check in December from the Bureau of Workers Compensation of $550,000 as part of the bureau’s “Billions Back” program, according to the forecast. Mr. Pestello described this payment as a “one time situation.”

In November, Kenston received a premium refund from the Bureau of Workers Compensation of $150,000 for policy year 2019, according to the forecast. Mr. Pestello said that this was part of the bureau’s $8 billion giveback program to all employers in the state. In addition, he said that the district is “running ahead” on their property tax collections.

“District leadership is committed to continuous monitoring of the district’s financial condition on a monthly basis and is committed to continually look for ways to operate the school district in a more effective and efficient manner,” Mr. Pestello wrote in the forecast.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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