By Lance Mihm
Celina City Schools board of education approved $776,000 in cuts, which may include up to 12 teaching positions, to prevent a future deficit.
Superintendent Fred Wiswell at Monday's board meeting said he worked closely with staff on the cuts before bringing the proposal to the board of education.
"I think this plan is representative of the feedback we received from staff," Wiswell said. "It makes it difficult for us as administrators trying to come up with some balance. It's something that didn't happen overnight, and it isn't going to heal overnight. We all know when you are making decisions of this magnitude, these are going to be unpopular decisions."
The cuts include $100,000 in administrative reductions, $500,000 in certified staff reductions, $75,000 in reductions on its Mercer County Educational Service Center (ESC) agreement, $60,000 in classified staff, $25,000 in supplemental reductions and $16,000 in building and supply reductions.
The cuts turn a $400,000-plus deficit into a black balance of $333,287 for the end of fiscal year 2006. However, the surplus created is short-lived. Even with the cuts, the district is facing another deficit of $1.1 million at the end of fiscal year 2007, five-year financial projections show.
"(The cuts) are quite a bit of improvement, but there is still work to do," Wiswell said. "I am anticipating a 1 to 2 percent reduction in the state biennial budget, so it doesn't get easier. We were able to keep some things that were important. We were able to keep all-day, everyday kindergarten, for example."
The certified staff reductions will result in the elimination of nine to 12 teaching positions before the start of next school year. The ESC cuts will result in sending fewer students to the alternative and opportunity school programs, which serve as a detention center and help students who are at-risk of graduating earn a diploma.
Supplemental reductions include cuts in transportation and personnel to those with supplemental contracts. The supply reductions represent a 10 percent cut in supplies.
School Treasurer Mike Marbaugh said the cuts to the classified staff (bus drivers, custodians, etc.) are currently being worked out by Business Manager Mike McKirnan. Cuts for the administrative staff are still being discussed, Marbaugh also said.
Board member Mary Lehman said the board has tried to be conservative with taxpayers' money, adding that some of the financial struggles have come from declining enrollment.
"We are projected to lose another 200 students over the next three to five years before it goes up again," Lehman said. "But there is a ray of hope. It seems it will stabilize in about 10 years."
Wiswell said the budget assumes renewal of a 6.8-mill property tax levy that expires at the end of calendar year 2006.
In other discussion at the meeting, the board approved administrative, executive secretary and cafeteria manager compensation plans.
Each will receive 2.75 percent raises for this school year, retroactive to Aug. 1, and 2.25 percent for the following school year. The raises are the same amount the teachers and other staff recently received.
The board also accepted the retirement of Wiswell, which will be effective Aug. 31.
"The reason I submit this now is because I think it is important that the board develop a plan to seek my replacement," Wiswell said.
The board approved the implementation of a peer tutor/intervention program for high school students for the 2005-2006 school year.
The program will provide students in need of passing graduation tests more time to be assisted by certified intervention staff. Peer tutors will assist students with daily academics. Students may apply to be a tutor during school registration.