School board member calls for cost savings now

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(Posted Dec. 13, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London City Schools is forecasted to be in deficit spending by approximately $764,000 by the end of June 2019. That number is expected to increase substantially in successive years, if nothing changes. School board member Marvin Homan says the district needs to address the issue now.

Deficit spending means the district is spending more money than it is taking in over the course of a year. The district has funds in reserve to cover this year’s overage, but that won’t be the case in a few years without new revenue.

School leaders have talked about the need for a new levy three years from now. At the Dec. 11 school board meeting, Homan said the district should be finding ways to cut expenses now so that they won’t have to make big cuts, especially to staff, if the district asks for a new levy and it fails.

Homan has worked on levy campaigns for the district in the past. He said history shows new levies don’t often pass on the first try.

“I have a feeling we’re going to end up right where we were when I joined the board,” he said. At that time, the district was in financial stress and had to cut 30-some staff members.

“Those of you who were around for it–it sucked. It was terrible,” he said.

Homan said he understands why the district is in deficit spending. Costs are going up, while revenues are essentially staying flat. The property tax and income tax levies generate roughly the same amount each year, and the state hasn’t increased its funding to the district since 2010.

“It’s no one’s fault. No one did anything wrong,” he said. “I just think we need to be proactive. Let’s address things now.”

He said he wants a plan to reduce spending by about $600,000 a year. That way, when the district asks for a new levy, school leaders can talk about what they will do with the money, rather than what will need to be cut if it fails, he said.

“I can’t look at these numbers month after month knowing we’re going to crash hard,” Homan said.

School calendar

Homan also has concerns about the school calendar, which was up for review at the Dec. 11 board meeting. In particular, he asked about the start date for the school year, which is set for mid-August the next three years.

Homan said other districts have found a way to start after Labor Day in September and still finish at the same time London does. He pointed to Southeastern Local Schools in South Charleston as an example.

“Probably out of all the complaints you hear as a board member, it’s one that always comes up,” he said about the August start date.

One suggestion, he said, is to shorten the winter and spring breaks. He said some residents have suggested eliminating spring break altogether.

Darryl Brown, school board president, said one of the main reasons for the earlier start date is the decision to move exams from after winter break to before winter break. Superintendent Dr. Lou Kramer said the timing of state assessments is a factor, too.

Board member Ed Maynor said the school calendar is a “can’t win” situation.

“Everybody comes at it from a different perspective,” he said, adding that no one solution will please everyone.

About the mid-August start date, Maynor stated, “I don’t like it either, but I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done about it.”

Kramer said any ideas for changes would have to go back to the calendar committee. Brown noted that London’s calendars are synched with other districts’ calendars, such as Tolles Career and Technical Center.

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