Wolf Creek will see decrease with plant closure

WATERFORD – The Wolf Creek Local Board of Education approved a five-year forecast Friday that shows declining revenue due to the closing of the Muskingum River Power Plant and anticipated decreases in state aid.

The forecast, presented during a special meeting Friday afternoon in Superintendent Bob Caldwell’s office at Waterford High School, shows Wolf Creek taking in a little more than $100,000 more than it spends in the current fiscal year. But projections show the district going into deficit spending by nearly $200,000 for fiscal year 2015, an amount that grows to $3.15 million by fiscal year 2018 if current conditions continue.

A forecast is just an estimate though, and it’s used by districts to anticipate and address potential problems.

“We’re trying to get ready for the closing of the plant,” Treasurer Rachel Miller said, noting unit 5, the only one located within the district’s borders, is slated to shut down by the end of 2015. “In school year 2015-2016, we should collect the full amount.”

That number is about $1.2 million a year. In 2016-17, the district should collect half that amount, Miller said, with it all going away in 2017-18. That’s based on the public utility personal property tax; Miller said she didn’t change the revenue based on the actual real estate since she’s not sure how it will change yet.

Miller also included in the forecast a reduction in state aid from almost $1.7 million this year and next to $1.56 million in fiscal 2018. This is because the new school-funding formula would have given Wolf Creek less than $1.7 million if not for guarantees intended to keep districts from receiving less money than they did the previous year. State officials, including Gov. John Kasich, have given indications that they would like to see guarantee funds eventually eliminated.

While that’s not set in stone, “we have to plan that they’re going to cut us,” board member Tom Kearns said.

Board member Roger Doak said he would hope to see some of the state’s recent economic improvement make its way back to local governments, since they have seen cuts in state funding in recent years.

“I would think some shifting would begin to benefit those who would have been harmed by this,” he said.

Miller noted the district received more than $552,000 in tangible personal property tax reimbursements in 2009-10. But with the accelerated phaseout of that money by the state, the number shrank to less than $43,000 last year and is gone this year.

The district began the 2014 fiscal year with a cash balance of $7,991,987. By the end of the forecast, that number would be a little more than $2.6 million.

Board members and administrators have previously said they would deal with the declining revenue by being as efficient with the district’s money as possible and that they have no desire or plans to seek an additional tax levy.

In other business, the board moved the November regular meeting to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in the high school band room.\