More cuts may be in store for Pickerington
Despite a decision from the Pickerington Board of Education to cut $13 million to balance next school year’s budget, administrators say they anticipate further cuts and a need for a levy later this year.
The cuts, they say, offset an expected 13-percent reduction in state funding.
“In these challenging economic times, answering how to stay academically and globally competitive with limited resources seems overwhelming,” Superintendent Karen Mantia said. “We are required to balance the budget.”
Cuts or changes will be made to the district’s transportation services, administrative personnel, licensed and certified personnel, licensed and certified employees in all grade levels and classified personnel.
With as many as 100 positions being eliminated, the cuts are being felt deeply throughout the community.
Cuts already announced include seven administrative positions, 15-1/2 licensed personnel including four nursing positions, 52 teaching positions at the K-6 level, 35 teaching positions in the 7-11 grades and elimination of the D.A.R.E. Program for elementary students.
“Kids need good teachers, good resources and good programs,” said Andy Russ, spokesman of Pickerington Patriots Political Action Committee. “We do not argue that fact. Instead of asking us for more money, they should do what other businesses have done and postpone merit and step increase as well as cut expenses.”
Pickerington Patriots, a grass roots independent political action committee devoted to opposing legislation and political candidates that do not align with core values as determined by the group, has moved into full campaign mode since news of the district considering a property tax levy spread.
At the end of January, the school board voted not to place a levy on the May ballot. However, board members have not ruled out placing a levy on the August ballot when some board members say it is better timing.
Mantia say the reductions are complicated with the restructuring efforts being made to streamline the education process.
For example, she says even though staffing reductions are planned, the district plans to bring back some of those positions by using them in other areas.
The hardest hit programs cut were art, music, physical education, media and technology, with 39 positions cut at the K-6 level.
Changes in programming, however, are expected to bring back 20 of those positions with a team of teachers traveling to different buildings, Mantia said.
With adjustments in the arts, the district is moving to restructure staffing for its new Global Learning Hub/Infusion Model that will be announced during the Feb. 14 board meeting. The new delivery model will bring back 20 of the 39 arts positions reduced in the layoffs, she said.
“It’s (the current method) a very insufficient way to deliver services,” Mantia said.
Beginning next school year, bus service for kindergarten students living within a two-mile radius of their schools will be eliminated, as will all district-paid field trips. The district’s DARE program, which educates elementary and middle school students about the dangers of drug addiction, also will be eliminated.
School hours will change to more efficiently coordinate busing and class time, Mantia said.
Currently, elementary classes are held from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., middle school classes take place from 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., junior high is in session from 7:15 a.m. to 1:55 p.m., and high school classes are held from 7:22 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
Hours starting with the 2011-2012 school year will be reduced by roughly 45 minutes for all levels. High school students will attend from 7:20 a.m. to 1:40 p.m., while junior high students will be in school from 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., middle-schoolers from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and elementary students from 9:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
Restructuring the school day will extend 7-12 level classes from 40 minutes to 50 minutes allowing teachers to spend more time on individual topics, Mantia said.
While athletics did not take a direct hit in this current round of cuts, district officials said as much as $1 million in programming reductions could be later announced once more decisions are finalized.
The overall cuts made so far are likely to be permanent, even if a levy is passed in the future, Mantia said.
“Based on the needs we know we have today, our intention would not be to bring any of these positions back,” she said.
Additional cuts are possible should the state reduce funding by as much as 20 percent. The district has plans to make an additional $2.9 million in reductions should the numbers change when the state budget is released later this Spring, Mantia said.
District votes against a May levy
After intensive discussion and debate, the Pickerington School Board decided against placing a levy on the May ballot during the Jan. 31 special board meeting.
Although the board voted 3-2 for placing the levy on the ballot, there is a requirement of a super majority 4-1 vote to adopt the resolution. Board members voting against the measure were Cathy Olshefski and board president Lisa Reade.
“This doesn't mean that the board is divided,” board member Lee Gray said. “We are on the same page. We agree that we must pass a levy. We just disagree on timing.”
Andy Russ of Pickerington Patriots said it doesn’t matter when a levy goes on the ballot.
“Taxpayers cannot support the schools they want to run,” he said. “We just don’t have it. In this economic turmoil, many taxpayers are not in a position to incur more taxes.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich is scheduled to release the state biennium budget in March. District officials said the delay gives the board and the district the opportunity to have more definitive information regarding funding from the state, local revenues, expenditures and contract negotiations.
“We need to evaluate all the factors we have at our disposal,” Reade said. “The latest information from the governor’s office is that they want the reductions to be equitable across districts.”
Olshefski said there is no correct answer.
“We have to make a decision based on a set of assumptions – some known and others unknown,” she said.