June 22, 2022
After delaying an operating levy request for the past two years, the Upper Arlington Board of Education will return to voters with a 6.9-mill operating levy request on the November 8, 2022, ballot to provide needed funding to maintain the district’s high-quality educational program.
The five members of the Board of Education voted unanimously on the evenings of May 24 and June 21 to approve the two resolutions required to place an issue on the ballot. As part of the Board of Education’s commitment to transparency, a letter will be mailed to all Upper Arlington households providing an update on the district’s finances and the decision to return to voters for operating funding.
The Board of Education is constantly reviewing the district’s financial situation and future financial needs. This includes the future anticipated impacts on our finances — historic inflation, enrollment growth, and the two-year delay of the operating levy request due to the pandemic and the economic situation.
“Amid the difficulties that families and residents have faced over the past two years, our school district has been good stewards to our community by creatively stretching our financial resources so that we did not have to return to voters until this fall,” said Board of Education President Lori Trent. “It has been five years since our last operating request — which is two years beyond the typical levy cycle for a suburban school district like ours.”
In the absence of new operating funding, the district has taken proactive steps to stretch resources, such as reducing the budget reserve; seeking out approximately $4.6 million in cost reductions, primarily through a three-year hiring freeze on new positions; and utilizing additional COVID-related funding made available to school districts.
“Even with these proactive steps, our expenditures are already outpacing our revenue — which reflects a typical levy cycle for a suburban school district,” Treasurer / CFO Andrew Geistfeld said. “It’s why suburban school districts like Upper Arlington usually go back to voters every three years to request new operating funding.”
The 6.9-mill request would provide needed operating funding for the district to continue offering high-quality academic programs for students while also taking steps to rebuild the budget reserve that had been reduced amid the financial constraints of the pandemic. The budget reserve, currently at 13% of annual expenditures, would gradually increase to 17%, or two months’ worth of annual expenditures, by fiscal year 2026. Prior to the pandemic, the Board of Education maintained a budget reserve of 25%, or three months’ worth of annual expenditures.
“As a business owner and a member of this community, I strongly believe in the district’s long-standing practice of having a conservative budget reserve fund. It helps protect our schools - and our kids - in case of financial challenges in the future,” said Board of Education member Lou Sauter. “By taking a gradual approach to rebuilding our budget reserve, we are honoring our commitment to be fiscally responsible while also respecting the financial challenges our residents may be facing with rising household costs.”
The 6.9-mill operating levy would add approximately $241.50 a year in property taxes per $100,000 of home valuation as determined by the Franklin County auditor. For an Upper Arlington home valued around $400,000, that would amount to an additional $966 per year based on calendar year 2022 tax valuations.