Lottery win won’t cure cash ills in BW, village

by Jon Reed

Sunbury’s mystery millionaire will have quite an impact on the community, even without his or her name being known.

The village resident who hit Ohio’s first Powerball jackpot in June will bring a windfall of cash to Big Walnut Local Schools and the village of Sunbury, both of which have been forced to make budget cuts in recent years.

Income tax dollars from the winners’ $134.9 million jackpot will help each organization with financial issues. The announced jackpot was $261.6 million, but the winner had signed up for the one-time payout.

Big Walnut schools has faced such a decline in revenue – paired with climbing expenses – that officials have cut art, music and physical education programs, shortened the school day, eliminated numerous staff positions. They still are pushing for passage of an emergency tax levy in November.

The district, with a 0.75 percent income tax, should earn $1,006,500 in added income tax revenue because of the jackpot, officials said.

“That will be a blessing,” district Treasurer Felicia Drummey said.

“But it’s certainly not going to be a cure for our financial distress.”

The district’s levy in November is designed to raise an additional $4.9 million per year for five years. A one-time payment of $1 million hardly puts a dent in the district’s problems, Drummey said.

“Seeing as this is a one-time thing, this is not something we want to dedicate as spending,” she said.

Art, music and physical education – three programs administrators would like to bring back – cost more than $800,000 per year, she said.

The windfall will allow the district some breathing room when it comes to the budget. The district should receive the money during July 2011, which is typically a lean time for other tax revenue, Drummey said.

“If we were to have $1 million sitting in the bank right now, since we don’t have much cash flow, we would know we could meet payroll,” she said.

State funding is also up in the air for 2012, and this money will help the district weather any storm caused by state budget cuts.

“We’re certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Drummey said.

The village is not in as tough of a financial situation as Big Walnut Local Schools, but Sunbury has gone through some tough times.

“We’re not in a deficit situation,” Village Administrator Dave Martin said.

“We’ve cut back on spending to get there.”

Village leaders have been forced to reduce Sunbury’s budget and have not replaced two employees who resigned or retired, Martin said.

The village will receive 1 percent of the jackpot, or roughly $1.3 million.

Village Council has been discussing what to do with the money. Possibilities include paying down some of the village’s debt, investing in special projects, or giving employees a raise for the first time in two years.

Talks about special projects so far have revolved around doing something involving the village’s park, he said.

Martin said most of the discussion, however, is still speculation about who the winner is.

This article was originally published on July 29, 2010, in Suburban News Publications newspapers.