Friday, July 15th, 2011
By Daily Standard Staff
Schools prepare for cuts
  By STAFF REPORTS
newsdept@dailystandard.com
Area school districts took a cut in state funding in the recently passed biennium budget, but the wound isn't as deep as many had thought and all said they were prepared for the knife.
All Grand Lake area schools will see a reduction in state aid for the 2012-2013 school year. Two districts will receive more in 2013-14 than the previous year.
Minster Local Schools will see the largest cut at 9.2 percent in 2012. Treasurer Laura Klosterman did not return calls for comment.
Parkway Local Schools will see a 6.4 percent decrease, about $360,000, in 2012-13.
"We planned for a $500,000 cut, so it's better than what we expected," superintendent Greg Puthoff said. "We knew this was coming so we made adjustments."
The school already eliminated a Title I teacher, bus driver position and bus route. Officials also decided not to purchase a new school bus, which costs about $80,000.
Additionally, they saved $25,000 last year by becoming more energy efficient. Puthoff said they plan to continue updating the school's utilities to save more money this year.
Coldwater treasurer Sherry Shaffer was relieved to know the school's 8.2 percent cut for 2012-13 was not the 10 percent she expected. State aid will go from $7.4 million this school year to $6.8 million.
The school has cost-saving measures in place.
"The biggest thing was the negotiated agreement with the teachers," Shaffer said. "They really stepped up to the plate, recognizing we were facing a financial crunch with the cuts. They helped considerably by making concessions in their agreement. Their salaries and step raises were frozen for two years."
Also, three retiring teachers and a retiring administrator will not be replaced.
Celina City Schools will lose 8.5 percent - or $912,000 - in funding for 2012-2013. School officials were estimating a 10 percent cut.
"I haven't had a chance to look at the numbers yet," treasurer Mike Marbaugh said this week. "But the funding and spending plan for this year will take precedence."
Marbaugh said a $1 million reduction plan school officials are working on and the $4.9 million operating levy passed in May will help offset the cuts. However, he does not expect that to be enough. He projects a $4 million deficit by 2013. He said the school will continue to look into further cuts.
Celina will receive a 1.3 percent increase in funding in 2013-14.
Districts across Ohio will feel the largest fiscal pain the first year because state officials did not continue federal stimulus funds to schools and retracted reimbursements districts had been receiving for tangible personal property and utility taxes. The cuts also don't reflect the one-time bonus of $17 per student districts will receive if they earned an excellent rating on the 2010 report card. All districts in the region earned an excellent rating.
Marion Local superintendent Mike Pohlman said he was not surprised by the numbers, a 5 percent decrease for 2012-2013. Much of the decrease represents the end of stimulus dollars.
The school already has canceled summer school, cut kindergarten teaching positions due to declining enrollment and cut two part-time teaching positions. Contract negotiations also went well.
"My hat goes off to the teachers for understanding our plight," Pohlman said, referring to the teachers agreeing to no raises for two years. "They helped us find a solution."
St. Henry school district made numerous cuts such as salary freezes and position eliminations to help combat an 8.5 percent funding decrease in 2012-13, according to superintendent Rod Moorman.
"For the most part, our school district has responded to the diminished state budget with a freeze on all certified, classified and administrative salary positions, including any index (automatic) steps in contracts," he said.
In the next two years, the school will experience a revenue loss of approximately $682,000.
The school board also has cut a bus route, a high school business teacher position, a district guidance position, a full-time custodian position, professional days for coaches, software programs used by teachers and textbook purchases. The school no longer allows professional leave time or field trips that are paid from the district's general fund.
As a measure to help boost state aid based on population, the board in June approved an open enrollment policy effective the 2011-12 year.
New Bremen treasurer Deb Meyer is not surprised the district is receiving a 7.5 percent loss in state funding.
Officials knew decreases were coming and implemented cost-cutting factors such as not replacing retiring personnel if possible. Two bus routes were consolidated and officials continue to scrutinize spending.
Fort Recovery schools will see a 3 percent drop in state funding for the upcoming year and an increase of 1.8 percent funding in 2013-2014.
"We haven't had an opportunity to really delve deeply in how the budget is going to impact us," superintendent Shelley Vaughn said.
Vaughn pointed out the board of education approved several cost-cutting measures the last few years in anticipation of decreased state funding.
"It's not a surprise for us," she said. "We've been preparing for that. We feel very comfortable with where we are right now."
St. Marys City Schools will face a 6.7 percent cut in 2012 and 3.5 percent cut the following school year. The school board already has put in place a $1 million reduction plan and is working on further cuts.
Superintendent Mary Riepenhoff said she and treasurer Tom Sommer have not had an opportunity to look at the numbers. They had no comment on the recently released numbers, saying they plan to work on the budget next week.
- Daily Standard reporters Amy Kronenberger, William Kincaid, Betty Lawrence, Shelley Grieshop and Margie Wuebker contributed to this story.
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