Canal Winchester schools in financial pinch

The Canal Winchester Board of Education spent a snowy Dec. 6 morning wrestling with reasons and ways to address a mounting shortfall born out of state cuts, an inability to pass operating levies, and growing expenditures.

"One of the things we looked at is the enrollment issue," said board member David Brobst. "It’s logical, for at least the next couple of years, to trim back growth projections. It looks like we’ll only have an 11 student growth this year and only project 20 to 30 new students in the next school year. To be conservative on that (enrollment) makes you conservative in your projections in staffing and revenue, and that lets us move forward. The board came to the consensus we agree with the philosophy of student counts and how that compares to dollars and cents."

Brobst said school funding consultant Dave Connley, who attended the meeting, advised board members they have to "come to grips" with the idea they cannot cut the district out of a deficit. Even if voters passed a double-digit levy, which is not under consideration, significant reductions would still need to be made.

"We can’t pass a levy big enough to get back to where we were five years ago," continued Brobst. "We heard this is happening all over Ohio. The state is broke and cutting back aid to districts that are broke. If they continue to cut our support, and we can’t get local support, it’s not farfetched Canal Winchester could go away. The biggest slice of the budget is for salaries and benefits, but we’ve got some of the lowest teacher salaries in the area. We also have more students per administrators than other districts. The slowdown in growth is a positive, but it’s also a negative in that you lose state aid."

According to Brobst, state support changes on a regular basis.

"We don’t know what the rules are going to be tomorrow," Brobst asserted. "Parity aid may go away and we could lose up to $2 million from that. What we want to get now is data and recommendations from the superintendent and treasurer on our student count and how a levy would affect us. I don’t even know when it’s a good time to run a levy. The economy isn’t going to get any better."

Continued Brobst, "We’re down to brass tacks. We’re really now in a big hole. This isn’t a case of tightening your belt a little more and get by. We can’t get by and people need to be informed as to what can and cannot happen. We spent a lot of time on understanding how we had a 90 percent reduction in new student enrollment with reductions in new housing builds and open houses on the market."

As for the next step, the board does not have plans to return to the ballot in the near future. Brobst said members believe it is logical to move forward with the new data and have the superintendent, treasurer, and management team continue to study options and make recommendations.

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