Levy passage stabilizes district finances, treasurer says 

by Judy Stringer

Nov. 20 school board meeting

“Stability” is the word Hudson Treasurer Phil Butto used to describe the district’s five-year financial picture now that residents have passed a new 5.5-mill operating levy.

“The district is returning to a balanced budget next year, possibly this year,” Butto told the Hudson City School Board. “Our cash balance will return to a point of financial sustainability that will enable the district to maintain its excellent programming, [to] continue to be able to meet the needs of our students.”

In his fall five-year forecast, which the board later approved, Butto projects 2024 spending at $76.3 million will slightly outpace revenue, at $76.1 million. Over the next two years, however, receipts jump ahead of expenses before expenses gain back the momentum. In 2028, the projections show $86.3 million in spending against $85.3 million in revenue.

Over that same time period, Hudson’s cash balance eases up from $29.2 million to $31.8 million.

Much of the revenue increase will be driven by escalating property tax collections, according to the forecast. Collections, which had hovered around $45 to $47 million since 2020, are expected to increase to $52.4 million in 2024 and to finish the forecast in the $58 to $59 million range.

In addition to the new levy, Butto anticipates the latest increase in property values, which go into effect in 2024, will result in more revenue for the district. While an Ohio law restricts the effect of property value growth on voted school levies, the non-voted – or “inside” – millage can inflate. 

“In most cases, that growth is going to be minimal,” he said. “The growth is actually material this year due to the increase in values.”

On the expense end, mounting benefits and health-related insurance costs continue to impact Hudson’s bottom line. Benefits, including health care, retirement, Medicare and workers compensation claims, are expected to account for $19 million in 2024 spending, up from $15 million in 2021. That figure will increase to $24 million by 2028.

“We feel confident we made progress in health care over the last year, and when I say progress, I mean claims,” Butto said. “We’re hoping that a level set occurs in years ‘25 through ‘28.”

Going forward, he said property taxes and benefits are areas “to watch.” Property valuation adjustments could negatively alter the revenue outlook, while there are “rumblings” at the state level that suggest districts may have to up their allocation to public retirement funds, an increase on the expense side.

Additionally, he said, “there is talk right now legislatively of increasing the homestead exemption which could have a financial effect on us. … I’m hoping that they hold schools harmless for that.”

In response to the forecast, board President Steve DiMauro noted that the district “got lean” years ago but has more recently added resources “to address student learning loss with COVID and so on.”

“From my perspective, there will come a time where we’re going to have to trim some of that back or we’re going to have to look at ways to stretch this out as far as we possibly can,” he said, adding that the operational levy passed by a relatively slim margin.

“As many people as were supportive of that, almost just as many were not supportive of it,” DiMauro explained. “So we need to continue to look at every single penny that we spend, and we need to make sure that we are allocating those dollars as efficiently and as effectively as we can.”

In other meeting happenings, Athletic Director Mike Chupp provided a wrap-up of the fall sports season. Hudson High School earned five Suburban League championships, including boys soccer, boys cross country, girls tennis, girls golf and boys golf. The boys golf team also was sectional and district champ and placed 10th in the state competition.

In addition, the board approved Woodford Excavating’s $127,521 bid related to a stormwater improvement project at HHS’s softball fields. Operations Director Tom Barone told the board the project entails the creation of two “small retentional basins” connected by a storm pipe. The basins will not be ponds, he said. They will have native plantings and “have a wetland look,” according to Barone.

Finally, the board approved three retirements for the end of the school year. Those include: Mark Mummey, an East Woods teacher with 34 years in the district; Carol Smith, an Ellsworth Hills intervention specialist with 21 years; and Kim Strausser, an East Woods psychologist with 22 years. ∞