By LANCE MIHM
ST. MARYS — Moulton Elementary School most likely will
close at the end of this school year, St. Marys board of education
members said during a Monday night meeting to discuss a budget
“Is there any interest in keeping it (Moulton) open?”
board member Craig Gottschalk asked other board members and
the crowd of more than 130.
Moulton Principal Lisa Elson expressed her desire to keep the
school open, and Mike Petzrak, who has children attending the
school, said he liked the small-school atmosphere.
However, board members seemed to think closing the school was
inevitable. The move would save the district $1.15 million during
a four-year period, the budget reduction plan says.
“If we keep it open, how long is it? Is it one year, two
years? I think the time is now,” board member Darren Caywood
Closing the school may be one cut in the budget reduction plan
that board members are trying to finalize. Board member Rees
McKee said they hope to act on the reductions during a 7 p.m.
Thursday meeting at the high school library.
Financial projections show the school system will see a $3.6
million deficit by 2008.
To maintain enough cash to pay bills for 40 days, the board
needs to cut $3.4 million before the new school year and get
a 7.9-mill property tax levy passed by voters in March. If the
levy fails, the board would need to cut $8.7 million.
The board already made $260,000 in cuts. Those cuts made at
a meeting last Wednesday include eliminating driver’s
education, field trips and high school computer science and
take effect today.
At the meeting Monday night, board members were making changes
to a budget reduction plan created by Superinten-dent Paul Blaine.
The board wants to save elementary art, music and physical education,
the academy program for at-risk students and summer school programs
from being cut. To compensate, an administrative pay freeze,
changes in curriculum mapping that would save about $6,000,
classroom cleaning and athletic support costs were moved up
on the list of cuts.
Blaine told the crowd why extracurricular activities and the
assistant superintendent position were not on the list of cuts.
“By proven example, other schools have cut sports and
found that there is no significant savings or they find themselves
even farther in the hole,” he said. “In Xenia, they
cut out extracurriculars and enough students left the district
that they lost more funding than they saved. This has happened
at other schools.”
Blaine also said the school has always had an assistant superintendent,
but the person may have worked under a different title. He said
the money saved from cutting the position would be lost due
to the lack of government grants, handled by the assistant superintendent.
That position currently is filled by Todd Yohey of St. Marys.
Other future cuts listed on the plan include closing Noble Elementary
School, eliminating busing for about 1,150 students, cutting
all-day kindergarten, cutting home economics and industrial
arts for junior high students and staff reductions. These cuts
would take effect if the levy in March fails, which would raise
about $1.8 million annually.
Teachers also may be asked to absorb some of the loss. Blaine
said the only way freezes in teachers’ salaries could
be possible is if teachers renegotiated their contracts.
“They would have to come to us,” board member Grady
Joann Liming, president of the St. Marys Teachers Association,
was unavailable for comment this morning on whether teachers
would be willing to take a pay freeze.
Another possibility for reducing the budget, suggested by McKee,
was to drop the 40-day cash balance to 30 days.
“Forty is the minimum we can work with,” Treasurer
Peg Grimm said. “That is an average, but sometimes we
dip into that reserved fund more than at other times.”
Caywood said he feels the community needs to settle personal
differences to get the levy passed in March.
“One thing that I hear from talking to some of you is
that there are indeed some deep scars in this room,” Caywood
said. “I know they will heal with time. We (the board)
will aspire to lead by example. We need to bridge some gaps
for things that have happened. The last levy is water under
the bridge, if we let our own personal beliefs get in the way
it is going to affect the kids in our district. It’s a
sad day for me when someone walks down the street and can’t
say ‘hi’ to me or look at me because I am in this
position where I have to cut this or cut that.”