Groveport Madison school board ponders finances

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Superintendent Scott McKenzie told the Groveport Madison Board of Education that it needs to make some decisions soon regarding the district’s financial and facilities issues.

Speaking at the board’s Jan. 16 meeting, McKenzie stated the board must consider:

•What cuts or further efficiency steps should be taken?

•Should the board place an operating levy or an income tax issue on the ballot to generate revenue?

•Should the board consider the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) recommendations on facilities? (He noted an OSFC report with a reassessment of the district will be released in February).

•Should the board place a bond issue on the ballot to address the district’s aging and crowded school buildings?

"We need to make some short term and long term decisions soon," said McKenzie, who suggested the board go on a two day retreat in February to discuss these matters and to work on team building issues.

According to the district’s five year financial forecast, at the end of fiscal year 2008 the district is expected to have a fund balance of $458,874. That figure drops dramatically to an estimated $34,118 by the end of fiscal year 2009. The district is projected to go into the red in the following three years, potentially being in the hole by $1.3 million in 2010, $3.8 million in 2011, and $7.6 million in 2012 if additional revenue is not obtained.

McKenzie noted significant cuts have been made, including the elimination of 51 certificated personnel positions in the last three years resulting in a savings of $3.8 million, as well as a reduction through consolidation of 17 bus routes in the last three years saving $640,500 in 2007-08.

Board member Steven Slyh noted all of the district’s school buildings are more than 30 years old. He added lack of space and low personnel numbers have resulted in a student/teacher classroom ratio of 30 to 1 in many classrooms in the district.

"I find it deplorable that we have classrooms where a teacher has 30 students," said Slyh.

Slyh said, noting construction time takes a few years, that he’d like to see a bond issue on the ballot in August or November this year.

"I don’t think we have three more years to wait for buildings," said Slyh. "I know bond issues are not popular, but it would be more unpopular to not provide quality education."

Board member Mary Tedrow recently spent some time in several of the district’s buildings and was appalled by "the lack of supplies, lack of books, lack of technology, too few teachers, and too few computers" in the schools.

"The eighth grade has no social studies books," said Tedrow.

Board President Dr. Naomi Sealey stated that Treasurer Anthony Swartz is conducting a study of the district’s finances and will make recommendations later "so the board can find the best approach" to meeting the district’s financial and facility needs.

Contract extension discussion

Slyh proposed a resolution to offer two year contract extensions to McKenzie, Director of Special Education and Personnel Kevin Scott, Business Manager and Director of Student Services Mike Beck, and Director of School Improvement Susan Briggs.

He praised the administrators for their work and said, "Let’s send a message to the community that we support them."

The rest of the board, who felt they weren’t prepared to make a vote, were reluctant to support the resolution.

"We weren’t told this would be on the table," said Tedrow.

"If we’re going to to be voting on contracts we need to be looking at the contract before us," added board member John Kershner.

Tensions among the board grew as Slyh reiterated the extensions would show support for the administrators.

"We’re not saying we don’t have confidence in these individuals," said Sealey. "I wholeheartedly support Scott (McKenzie). But there’s a process."

Sealey noted McKenzie is already under contract until 2010 after which she said McKenzie indicated to her he would consider retirement. She asked McKenzie if he felt supported by the board and he said he did.

The measure to extend the contracts failed 4-1 with only Slyh in support.

Skatepark lease rejected

The board unanimously rejected a resolution to lease land across from Glendening Elementary near the tennis courts to the village of Groveport for a proposed skatepark.

"There’s too many loose ends," said Kershner.

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