Reynoldsburg Schools must decide when to go back to voters
More than 120 teachers, bus drivers and staff members have received notice from the Reynoldsburg school district that their positions would be eliminated for next school year.
After voters rejected a 15.6-mil levy on May 5, the district began cutting $11 million from its budget. The layoffs saved $7.2 million, Treasurer Mitch Biederman said.
Elementary art, music and gym teachers were among the first to go as the district cut their programs.
High school busing will cease, as will busing for private schools.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade who live within two miles of their schools also will not be bussed, Superintendent Steve Dackin said.
Transportation will be provided for special needs students who have busing included in their Individualized Education Programs (IEP). Shuttle service between the high school and career center will continue.
To protect children from crossing some of the area's busiest streets, the district will consider redistricting, District Business Manager Ron Strussion said.
The layoffs are the first in a line of cuts. Next on the chopping block will be athletics, which costs the district $1 million annually.
Originally Dackin suggested an $800 pay-to-play, but he has since withdrawn that "obscene" figure. By no longer scrimmaging distant schools, eliminating at least one assistant coach per sport, and asking for more donations, the fees could drop to between $500 and $600.
"It's still a lot of money," Dackin said.
The district calculated the fee by dividing the $1 million cost by the number of athletes. However, many students will not have the means to participate and the individual fees will rise.
Many parents have contacted the district asking how much to pay for their child to play fall sports. The administration will have a firm price soon, possibly in time for the May 19 school board meeting, Dackin said.
To save money on heating, cooling and janitorial staff, the district will consider shortening the school days and closing the buildings to outside entities such as the latchkey program and the Reynoldsburg City Parks and Recreation department.
Another option would be to charge the outside entities more money for the use of the facilities, Strussion said.
Raises for support staff and administrators have been cut for the next five years. Teachers' will receive a 3-percent raise for the 2009-2010 school year per the last year of their union contract.
Biederman suggested that the district return to the ballot in November with a 9.9 mill levy.
"We put 15.6 mill levy (on the ballot) and came within 544 votes of passing that on only our second try," Biederman said. "Starting next school year a lot of changes are going to rock people's worlds. If my children were to go to this district next school year and you didn't put a levy on the ballot I would really be upset about it."
Three of the last four times the district went to the voters, the issues failed - once for the bond to build the two new schools and twice for levy attempts, Board Member Chip Martin said.
"I hear them scream at us 'you are too fat!'" Martin said. "In my opinion to turn around and come back in November is just not right. The earliest I would consider would be May 2010."
Dackin said the district's core programs may suffer even more.
"We can keep cutting and dynamically and drastically hurt our core programming," Dackin said. "I think we have to go beyond the $11 million - not dramatic draconian cuts, although you could argue what we have already done has been pretty draconian."
Some programs likely will not return anytime soon, he said.
"I don't think it's possible to pass enough millage to bring back anything in entirety," Dackin said. "We'll continue to run the district based on cuts and (if funding becomes available) we will target things to bring back."
The current five-year forecast includes $3 million to open the two new schools, although the district may have to delay the opening if the funds are needed elsewhere.
"We are required to build them, but not necessarily have to operate them," Dackin said.
The high school will remain overcrowded if the new schools remain closed, Dackin said.
Adding to the challenge of balancing the budget are what Dackin calls "moving parts." These unknowns include attrition due to retirement, the cost for workers' compensation and grants.
Federal funding may arrive in the form of stimulus dollars, although it would most likely be earmarked to create new programs for special needs students.
Over the next two years, the district will receive $860,000 for Title I (low-income) programs and $1.3 million for IDEA (special education) programs.
This money cannot be used for other purposes such as retaining a music teacher, nor can the district reallocate the funds it currently spends on Title I and/or IDEA to another area, Dackin said.
The biggest unknown is the state contribution that currently comprises 51 percent of the district's funding, Dackin said.
If House Bill 1 passes the senate, the district will receive $500,000 less in state funding, and that is the "most optimistic picture possible," Dackin said.
Governor Ted Strickland introduced the bill to the Ohio House and although the Senate will most likely not approve the bill in entirety, Dackin believes parts of it will remain intact.
The governor's plan would restructure how the state divvies money for districts by using an "evidence-based model." The state would determine a set amount to spend on education, then distribute the money based on the needs of individual school buildings, Dackin said.
Additionally, Strickland's plan includes a provision prohibiting school districts from reducing their labor force to balance their budgets.
The provision is "an abomination capitulating to the unions," Dackin said.
By 2011, the state could require all-day, everyday kindergarten at a cost of $900,000 to the district - "for us just over 1 mill," Dackin said. "We will have the space for it, but we won't have the funds for it."
The state will not finalize the budget until June or July. If the funding for Reynoldsburg is cut, Martin said he would reconsider placing a levy on the November ballot.
The board would have to notify the board of elections by August to make the election deadline.
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