Some Western Buckeye
League school officials wrestling with deficit
By LANCE MIHM
Sports may be cut at three Western Buckeye League schools next
school year as a way to balance budgets.
School officials at St. Marys, Lima Shawnee and Elida all are
talking about cutting or dropping athletics and other extracurriculars
as a way to reduce forecasted million dollar deficits after
levies failed at the November election.
St. Marys officials have not yet announced any cuts to the system,
but said cuts will be made if a levy does not pass in March.
Voters rejected a 1 percent income tax in November, and school
officials now plan to put a property tax in front of voters
“We will devise our plan of attack after March,”
St. Marys Athletic Director Bruce Brown said. “Naturally,
it will depend on what size the levy is and if it passes at
The district is facing a $1.7 million deficit in 2006.
Elida school officials threatened that extracurriculars would
be eliminated if a 1 percent income tax failed at the November
election. The levy did fail, and now board members are looking
at what cuts to make.
“Extras will be cut,” Superintendent Todd Hanes
told The Daily Standard. “We just don’t know which
ones yet. We have an education agenda we have to meet before
providing any extracurriculars. We would save about $400,000
by cutting extracurriculars and that is a step in the right
direction to trim a $1.5 million projected debt (forecast for
next school year).”
The Elida board also is looking at placing another levy on the
March primary election ballot. However, any new money passed
would not be collected until 2005 and would not help next year’s
Shawnee Superintendent Michael Manor said his school district
is facing a $1.8 million deficit by the end of the 2003-2004
school year, which represents about 10 percent of the budget.
Voters there rejected a 5.7-mill property tax in November.
An outside firm will be coming to the school to evaluate its
financing and staffing before any cuts will be made, Manor said.
School officials also plan to make another attempt at getting
a levy passed in March.
“We could save $535,000 by cutting extracurriculars,”
Manor said. “We don’t want to get into a pay-to-play
situation. You can run into problems with that. You will lose
a lot of latitude if a parent pays $350 for a child to play
and they sit on the bench.”
All three school boards plan to discuss future levy options
and cuts at their next board meetings — Dec. 9 in Shawnee,
Dec. 10 in St. Marys and Dec. 16 in Elida.
Western Buckeye League Commissioner Don Arnett said the league
wouldn’t immediately reform and drop schools if extracurriculars
“We would hope the problem would be short term and the
schools in the league are more than happy to accept that before
taking another school,” Arnett said.
Lima Bath Athletic Director Rich Dacken said his school district
also could face similar problems if a levy in March fails. Celina
City Schools also is placing a levy on the March ballot to offset
a projected deficit.
Cutting extracurriculars may not be the best answer to budget
problems, one school official says.
Dave Wedderburn, athletic director for Xenia High School, watched
his school go further into debt after cutting sports and other
student activities during the 1990-1991 school year after a
failed levy attempt.
“That year we saved about $183,000 in cutting our extracurriculars,”
But more than 100 students left the school district and went
to other schools to participate in sports. The decreased student
enrollment cost the school $340,000 in school funding.
“We are facing that same predicament now because of a
failed levy,” Wedderburn said. “Obviously from past
experience, cutting extracurriculars is not high on our option
list. We figure we would probably lose 200 students this time
Wedderburn said athletics and other extracurricular departments
simply need to become more self-sufficient.
“Being involved in the same process these schools are
going through before, I would suggest looking for short-term
solutions for now,” Wedderburn said. “Extracurriculars
are not only great for the children and the curriculum, they
are great for the community. It is the best entertainment that
money can buy. Later on, you can evaluate if the short-term
solutions are just patching and come up with other plans accordingly.
It’s terrible on the morale of a school when it is closed
at 3:30 p.m. and there is nothing else going on. The kids will
find something else to be doing, and a lot of that is not good.”