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Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Coldwater school looks to tighten budget

By Betty Lawrence
COLDWATER - School board members are pondering how best to tighten the budget in light of an estimated state funding loss of 22 to 31 percent in fiscal year 2012.
Seventy percent of the district's funding comes from the state level.
"The 22-31 percent funding loss is just a guesstimate," Coldwater schools Superintendent Rich Seas said. "It would be nice if we could get some direction, other than just knowing the cuts are coming."
Seas said a concern of his is the possibility of a forthcoming budget corrections bill.
"One of the problems and concern is, after the November election, there's a good likelihood of a corrections bill that would go back to July," he said. "We would have to make adjustments and that's scary. Just tell us what the percent is and we will work with it."
In addition, there will be a 2 percent reduction of state foundation money for next school year. The district received $6,772,188 in regular foundation funds and $335,900 in restricted foundation money for the current school year.
The stimulus money of $45,581 also will be gone next school year.
School Treasurer Sherry Shaffer presented a report on the district's revenues and expenditures to aid board members in understanding where the school money comes from and where it goes.
"We need to think about how we're going to slice, dice and shave," Shaffer said.
By far, the major expenditure for the district is salaries and fringes (health/life insurance, Worker's Compensation, state teachers retirement, etc.), which accounts for more than 80 percent of the budget.
Seas and the board did not approach the subject of staffing cuts.
"It's emotionally draining. There's nothing more difficult when you involve people," Seas said.
Shaffer added, "When looking at possible cuts, equipment (such as computers) and supplies (textbooks, pencils, etc.) would be least painful. Equipment purchases can be deferred and textbooks could be postponed a year or two."
Equipment already is at a comfortable low of $90,000, while supplies stand at $415,000, the treasurer said. Other expenditures include $425,000 in fees, such as for gifted and special education programs supplied by the Mercer County Educational Service Center and state and county auditor's fees, and $905,000 in services, such as utilities.
In addition to state foundation money, other annual revenue sources include real estate taxes, $2,792,382; income tax, $700,000; and local revenue, $445,000.
Shaffer promised a more detailed breakdown of the revenue and expenditures at the board's next meeting.
Seas added he felt it was a good idea for the board to see where the money is coming in and going out.
"We are facing some cuts and need to be prepared. This (state financial cuts) is a worry and it's not a pretty picture when it comes to finances," Seas said. "We need to stay optimistic and positive and determine and need to prioritize. What do we chop off first?"
Shaffer recalled the late 1980s, saying things were a lot worse then.
"We had huge staff cuts," she said. "We will come out of this and things will get better. Our students will still get educated. We have to be brave for a couple of years."
"Could it be we're going back to just the basics of education?" board member Todd Bills asked.
On a positive note, Seas reported open enrollment is up with 80 students, attributing part of the rise to the district's diversified school offerings.
Board members were asked to pore over Phase 2 of the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top grant.
The grant application was originally turned down by school officials in January.
"The state of Ohio wants to apply for this grant and we have the opportunity to run the same exercise (as in January). The board needs to weigh in on it, along with the teachers union," Seas said.
The state lost out on its share of the grant money during Phase 1.
Requirements for the grant application include approval from the superintendent, school board and teachers union.
During Phase I, the grant amounted to a maximum of $40,000 for four years. This time around, the grant money is higher, $100,000 for four years.  
In other action, board members heard second reading of several school policies, from school board duties to field trips.
Following an executive session, board members hired Chip Otten as varsity football coach.
Otten, who spoke to the board prior to the executive session, said he had two goals: to win games and make the playoffs and to keep the football program in its current solid state.
"I am looking forward to the challenge," he said.
He is replacing head football coach John Reed, who resigned due to health reasons.
One-year supplemental contracts for the 2010-2011 school year were awarded to the school's cross country, football, golf, volleyball, soccer and cheerleading coaches.
Several certified teaching contracts and non-certified contracts for the upcoming school year also were approved.
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