COLUMBUS GROVE —The school district continues to run at deficit spending, so success of the upcoming levy campaign to renew the current income tax will be critical.

During the July 22 school board meeting, Treasurer Mark Ellerbrock gave board members an end-of-the year update of the 2013-14 school year. He reported the actual deficit of the district was $262,985, slightly lower than the $263,000 that was forecast for the last school year. Ellerbrock said this year’s forecast is running at approximately $250,000 deficit. Total funds for the district is $8,678,000.97.

He noted the district was down 23 students from the previous year, with 10 students going to Apollo Vocational School. There were 825 students in the district, down from 848 from the previous school year. He said they will need to take a “hard look” at the student count in October this year. Superintendent Nicholas Verhoff said there were 41 students coming into the district through open enrollment, up from the 35 students last year.

Other factors include less government grants and more educators reaching master’s level pay. Ellerbrock added there was some savings with

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employees using the Health Savings plan and a number of recent retirements. Another area of concern is the cafeteria which is losing money. The district lost a total of $18,747 in cafeteria expenses. Ellerbrock speculated some of that may be due to increased nutritional standards that are causing more students to pack their lunches instead of utilizing the cafeteria.

“The number of meals have declined each of the last two years,” Ellerbrock said.

A total of 75,936 meals were served, down from 78,754 from the year before. The actual balance in the fund is $91,436. Ellerbrock surveyed other districts in the county and found half of them are losing money while the other half show profit.

Board member Ned Stechschulte, who also serves as the board’s representative to Apollo Vocational School, said Apollo is experiencing the same issue.

“Kids would rather pack their lunch,” he said.

Verhoff said he, Ellerbrock and the cafeteria manager will meet next month to brainstorm some ideas.

The board also approved the prices for the cafeteria for the upcoming school year with no increase in Type A meals and only a slight increase in a la carte items.

Ellerbrock also noted the Columbus Grove Athletic Boosters gave a very generous donation to help fund equipment to the district volleyball team. Board Member Brad Brubaker motioned the board gratefully approve the donation in the amount of $5,212, with Ned Stechschulte seconded the measure.

Verhoff also asked board members for input regarding the upcoming levy campaign. This is the fifth renewal of the measure that does not expire until the end of 2015, but November 2014 is the earliest the district can take action placing the measure on the ballot. The tax issue brought in $903,000 last year to the district.

Verhoff said the last election saw 92% of the renewal campaigns pass by voters, but he wants some direction on how to educate voters that the measure will be on the ballot and there will be no increase in taxes.

Meanwhile, Maintenance Director Dale Schroeder reported to the board staff is close to having the buildings completed and will have everything ready for the educators when they return in a few weeks. They are completing some concrete work at the softball field as well as getting the athletic fields ready for upcoming football scrimmages. They are also working at replacing the lights in the parking lots and eventually on the sidewalks. Board member Dr. Brian Jones asked if there could be a trash container placed for the midget football team which is beginning practices. He also asked if an upper window in the library that was damaged could be replaced. Schroeder said they are not sure how the window got damaged, but it is still under warranty and will be replaced.

In other business, the board:

Approved contracts for Katie Green as intervention tutor; Laurie Ricker, cafeteria worker; Eric Siefker, assistant football coach; and Connor Kohls as freshman boys basketball coach.

Approved student fees in the amount of $60 per student with seniors paying $75. Rates have remained unchanged for nearly 10 years.

Set the 2015 commencement ceremony for 2 p.m. May 24, 2015.

Set the next meeting for 8 p.m. Aug. 18.