Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

London Schools combat projected $1.3 million budget shortfall

London City Schools leaders are cranking up their efforts to cut costs as the district faces an estimated $1.3 million budget shortfall by June 30, 2011.

At a work session on June 24, the school board, superintendent and treasurer firmed up about $425,000 in savings, achieved primarily by choosing not to fill the following positions vacated due to resignations or retirements: two aides, one maintenance worker, two intervention specialists and one librarian. They also opted not to purchase a bus as originally planned.

The group discussed but did not finalize ideas for saving another $300,000. Ideas include forgoing some new equipment purchases and cutting custodial substitutes.

The discussions continued at the boards regular meeting on June 28, when board president Eric Schooley urged fellow board members to constantly look for opportunities big and small to save money.

“Its either take little chunks now or, in a year, take massive chunks, he said, as he lobbied for cost-saving alternatives for two personnel-related items on the agenda.

One item regarded the resignation of one of the two high school guidance counselors. The board and superintendent discussed whether or not to replace him. They also batted around ideas like using one full-time counselor at the high school and another full-time counselor who would split his time between the middle school and high school.

In the end, the boards consensus was to keep the three-counselor system to meet students needs. At most, the district could save a few thousand dollars should the replacement come in at a lower salary level than the previous counselor.

Schooley also questioned the 2.5 percent raise proposed for the districts two school psychologists. Superintendent Steve Allen defended his recommendation for the raise, saying such specialists are hard to find and, to keep them, the district needs to offer competitive salaries.

Upon Schooleys suggestion, the board agreed to table the item until Kim Pareso, the districts special services director, finds out what other area school districts pay their school psychologists and whether or not they are adjusting or eliminating raises.

If the board later reduces or eliminates the raises, Schooley said,Maybe it wouldnt save much but all the little bits add up.

Allen said the district will strive to make up the districts budget shortfall through a combination of cost cuts, savings measures and use of part of the districts cash reserve. Cost-saving actions will continue beyond June 2011 as costs continue to go up, revenues continue to go down, and the cash reserve dwindles, he said.

Allen noted that the income tax levy that voters passed in May was a renewal. While it prevents the shortfall from being bigger, it does not add money to the districts bottom line. The board chose not to ask for more in recognition of the strain the economy also is putting on taxpayers.

New high school principal
Fifty people applied for the high school principal job. Allen selected and interviewed the top eight candidates the week of June 21, after which he narrowed the field to four.

Four groups—made up of students, parents and community members, staff, and administrators and board members—were to interview the top four candidates on July 1. Allens final decision is to be based on the groups recommendations.

The board will hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. July 7 to vote on Allens choice. The meeting will take place at the board office on the Walnut Street campus.

Tobacco-use policy
The board approved new boundaries for smoking on school grounds. Visitors must smoke at least 25 feet away from any ventilation system or school entrance. This is a new rule required by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

At a previous meeting, the board discussed stricter boundaries and even a 100 percent ban on smoking on school grounds. As requested by the board, Allen talked to Madison County Hospital representatives about their implementation of a smoking ban.

“They suggest we study this for one year and get input from multiple sources, which is what they did, Allen reported.That makes it a community process, which gets the word out and gives you lots of input.

Allen said he will make the smoking issue a permanent agenda item at the community forums he hosts each month.

Upon Schooleys suggestion, Allen will report to the board in December about the feedback he has collected and again when the year is up.

Geib said she has received more phone calls from district residents about the smoking issue than almost any other issue this year.

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