Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
By Amy Kronenberger
Board OKs stringent cuts
Pay-to-play proposed if St. Marys school levy fails
  ST. MARYS - School board members on Tuesday approved the first round of budget reductions to stave off a looming deficit.
Tier 1 cuts, which mostly include the reduction of staff through attrition, will go into effect for the 2013-2014 school year. The move will save the district $750,000-$775,000.
The most recent five-year financial forecast shows the district having a deficit of $734,489 by July 2014 and it increases from there.
Board members approved the retirements of Becky Anderson, high school concert band, 33 years of service; Janice Dickerson, primary music, 17 years of service; Susan Kleinhenz, elementary music, 31 years of service; Chris Noble, middle school special education, 27 years of service; and Christine Mastin, third-grade, 27 years of service.
Superintendent Shawn Brown said several more employees have told him of their intentions to retire but have not officially made the announcement.
Tier 2 cuts, which board members also approved, will go into effect next school year if a five-year tax levy fails at the May primary election. The measure asks voters for a combined 5-mill property tax and 1 percent earned income tax.
Tier 2 reductions would "sting a bit more" and "will cost employees their jobs," Brown said.
The plan includes a pay-to-play program for extracurricular activities, saving about $320,000, and reduce busing to the state minimum of those living more than 2 miles from the school, saving $165,000.
The board had the option to cut extracurricular activities, but Brown cautioned that cuts of that magnitude would lead students to attend other districts. Every student lost to open enrollment costs the district $5,000, he said.
The board also could reduce kindergarten to half days, saving $150,000. However, if Gov. John Kasich follows through with his promise to provide additional kindergarten funding, they would not need to cut it.
Total tier 2 cuts would be between $400,000 and $600,000, falling short of the $1 million or more needed if the levy fails, board member Ralph Wiley pointed out. The board would need to find additional cuts, including looking into Tier 3.
Brown pointed out Tier 2 and 3 cuts could wait if the board wanted to try the levy again on the November ballot.
Tier 3 reductions would eliminate all classes, programs and staff that are not required by law for the core curriculum. These cuts would only be considered if no other options present themselves, board members said.
Changes under Tier 1 reductions include,
• moving the part-time middle school music teacher to full-time elementary music to replace the retiring teacher. The board will not replace the middle school music teacher.
Anderson's position with the band will be replaced with a part-time person, while band director Dane Newlove, who also plans to retire, will be replaced with a full-time position. The elementary music teacher will take over teaching fifth-grade band.
The adjustment to the music program will save $142,622.
• home economics no longer offered in the middle school with two instructors retiring. One instructor will handle the program at the high school. The savings will be $92,463.
• Director of instruction Cary Roehm will take over the duties of the supervisor of special education/student services officer. Roehm said a special education supervisor is required by law, so she would need to dedicate most of her time to that position. The rest of the administration agreed to assume any duties Roehm couldn't handle.
"I believe that as a district, we need to look at everything, and if you look at the administration, I didn't see any other area we could cut," she said. "Combining this position is for the betterment of the district. It's not about me ... we all have to pull together."
Board member Ronda Shelby commended Roehm for her willingness.
"That's a tremendous load to put on anyone," she said. "She's very capable ... but being a former educator, I'm overwhelmed that you would agree to do this. We owe you a tremendous amount of gratitude."
Roehm's salary is $106,387. Combining the positions will save the district about $92,000.
• elementary teachers taking over art instruction after the retirement of the elementary art teacher. This will save the district about $80,883.
• partially replacing the positions of four part-time special education instructors who have announced their retirements. The district will save $207,898 by replacing two with no experience and not replacing the other two.
• cutting through attrition a high school English instructor and the high school in-school suspension position. The part-time Latin teacher will move to full time and cover the extra English teaching duties. The district will save $81,447 with the change.
Retirements that would need to be replaced could save the district another $120,000-$150,000 by hiring teachers with little to no experience, Brown said.
Under Tier 2 cuts, board members decided,
• the retiring vocational agriculture teacher would be replaced with a part-time instructor. The reduction would save the district about $50,000.
• to eliminate the Virtual Learning Academy adviser, saving $61,248.
"Obviously, all these cuts will hurt," high school principal Dave Lewis said. "People need to see this and understand why we need to pass this levy."
Brown said he would research options and costs for extracurricular play-to-play programs and present it to board members at a future meeting. The next regular board meeting is 7:30 p.m. March 13 at the high school auditorium.
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