(by Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer - February 21, 2009)
When voters rejected a combined 6-mill operating levy and 3.69-mill bond issue last November, the South-Western City School Board of Education said that drastic changes would have to be made in order to balance the budget for the 2009/10 school year.
At their regular meeting on Feb. 9, the board approved a resolution to place a four-year, 8.3-mill operating levy on the May 5 ballot, but said cuts would have to be made regardless of the levy’s success or failure.
The next night, the board held a special meeting to discuss cost containment strategies. On Feb. 12, the finalized budget reduction plans were laid out during a special board meeting.
“This is not a real shiny night for anyone involved,” said Superintendent Dr. William Wise. “It has been extremely difficult to make these decisions.”
If the 8.3-mill operating levy is approved, the district will have to make about $1.7 million in cuts regardless.
Those cuts include charging tuition for summer school, reducing the district’s overall budget by $110,000, reducing the number of intervention specialists and shifting the positions to IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and modifying the relationship between the district and the Buckeye Ranch.
Currently, the Buckeye Ranch provides the building and some equipment to assist the 68 countywide students who are in need of treatment for behavioral or psychological services, while the district provides most of the teachers and administration staff.
“The Buckeye Ranch will continue to provide services, but we as a district will have to reduce the services we help provide,” said Deputy Superintendent Philip Warner.
In total, the district will have to cut about eight certificated personnel positions, two classified personnel positions, and one administrative personnel position.
“The district will still provide administrative liaison support for the ranch, but not in a full-time capacity,” Warner said.
Warner added that if the federal stimulus dollars do not come through for the district (specifically for their IDEA program), they will have to make an additional $1 million in reductions.
If voters do not approve the 8.3-mill operating levy, the district will face approximately $6.4 million in reductions.
Those cuts would include closing Harrisburg Elementary and merging it with Darbydale Elementary, relocating services provided at the Kingston School, eliminating athletics and extra-curricular activities, eliminating high school busing and reducing board supported field trips.
The $6.4 million reductions would also include eliminating seven administrative personnel positions, 29 certificated personnel positions and 30 classified or support staff positions.
“This is our best guess on what would have to be reduced or eliminated if the levy doesn’t pass based on the information we have now,” explained Warner. “Can the numbers change if the levy passes? Yeah, it can change.”
If the 8.3-mill operating levy does pass, the owner of a $100,000 house would pay an additional $254 in taxes annually, or approximately $22 per month.
Additionally, the superintendent and Treasurer Hugh Garside offered to forgo an increase of their salaries for the upcoming fiscal year, but the board has yet to vote on their proposal.