Madison-Plains board passes budget reduction

(Posted May 2, 2018)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

The Madison-Plains school board unanimously adopted a budget reduction plan that will be in effect for the 2018-19 school year, regardless of the outcome of the income tax question on the May 8 primary election ballot.

The plan, approved at a special board meeting on May 1, institutes a base pay freeze for all district employees and a pay-to-participate schedule for extracurriculars. The plan raises student fees, eliminates the general fund capital outlay, reduces curriculum resources, eliminates three aide positions, and does not allow for filling vacant positions. It is effective for the 2018-19 school year only.

The cutbacks and revenue-producing measures are designed to put $641,000 into the district’s coffers this next academic year.

Even if the income tax passes, said Superintendent Tim Dettwiller, the Ohio Department of Taxation estimates the district would only collect $90,000 in the first year.

“This reduction plan gives us time for our income tax collections to ramp up. We need (the reductions) now because there’s an 18-month phase-in before we get 100 percent collections,” Dettwiller said. At full collection, the levy would generate $1.9 million a year.

“The combination of the income tax and reduction plan makes us solvent for the next five years,” he said.

If the levy doesn’t pass, the reductions will help to prevent a deficit going into the 2019-20 school year and buy the district time to make more reductions and try again to pass a levy, Dettwiller said.

The district’s general fund projections are stronger now than they were at the start of the year, Dettwiller continued. Originally, the five-year forecast showed a deficit of $118,000 by June 30, 2019. Now, projections show the district will end that fiscal year with $900,000 in the general fund. That, coupled with the $641,000 from the budget reduction plan, would put the general fund at $1.5 million, enough to operate the district for the 2019-20 school year.

Without the reductions and without the levy, the district would face a deficit. By law, a district cannot start a school year with a deficit projected for that year.

About the reductions, Dettwiller said, “We’ve revised this plan multiple times, as it should be.”

Mark Mason, board president, praised the employee unions for accepting the pay freeze for the coming year.

“This is a big concession,” Mason said. “We are facing a fiscal crisis and our staff members are performing this act on behalf of Madison-Plains students.”

The teachers’ union also agreed to give up its tuition reimbursement fund for the upcoming school year, a $50,000 surrender.

The reduction plan did not specify which aides would be cut, but the cut will save $64,000. By leaving vacant a first-grade teacher position, a reading specialist position, and the director of operations position, the district will save another $259,000.

Also at the May 1 meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Brian Rohrig who taught physics and chemistry this year. His position will be filled. However, it has not been decided if the vacancy created by the resignation of Meredith Smith, who taught high school English for the past four years, will be filled.

At the end of the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss the search for a new superintendent to replace Dettwiller whose resignation becomes effective at the end of this fiscal year.

Daniel R. Kaffenbarger, superintendent of the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center, who is helping the district in its search, said 18 resumes were submitted.

“The applicants are all from Ohio,” he said, adding that nine of them have previous experience as superintendents.

The board is scheduling interviews. They plan to make a selection by early June.

The board’s next regular meeting is May 15.

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