AUDIT: Firelands finances slowly improving, problems still abound

Staff Report

A jump in property tax collections helped the Firelands Schools rally by $1.6 million in fiscal year 2016, according to a state audit released in March.

The largely rural district has had its share of problems in the past decade, from disappointment at the polls to mounting repair costs at aging schools.

Still facing many of those problems, Firelands noted a 12 percent increase in its net position from 2015 to 2016.

A five-year, $1.5 million emergency levy was renewed in May 2015 and property values crept up by one percent in the district too. At the same time, investments are slightly healthier.

The result: the balance of the general fund, the most significant account when it comes to school operations, was bumped up $1.8 million, or four percent.

The district also paid off some of its long-term debt, including bonds. And by the end of the most recent fiscal year, Firelands had a little more than $5 million invested in land and building improvements, furniture, equipment, and vehicles.

Moving to full open enrollment has also helped stabilize the district’s finances, according to the audit.

It went from losing 28 kids to other nearby districts to being up 145 in 2015, then up 178 in 2016. That brought in $828,352 extra dollars.

In the meantime, medical insurance premiums jumped for the district’s workers, which eroded some of the gains.

And charter school students leaving Firelands continue to dog the district’s pocketbook. Last year, they took $357,000 in state funding with them to community schools.

Staff Report