State audit offers ideas to stave off Madison-Plains deficit

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(Posted March 22, 2018)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

Finances took center stage at the March 20 Madison-Plain school board meeting as the Auditor of State’s Office and the superintendent presented plans to ward off a projected financial deficit.

Mark lngles and Scott Anderson of the Auditor’s Office shared recommendations that came out of a performance audit the state performed at no cost for Madison-Plains. Such audits, Anderson explained, are done for districts in fiscal distress based on their five-year forecast.

The state report offered 20 ways the district could trim expenses, including cutting 17 full-time employees, on the way to eliminating a projected deficit of $7.9 million in the 2021-22 school year. Eliminating those positions would save $1 million over five years.

Other cuts recommended by the state involved financial management, human resources, facilities and transportation.

The report encouraged the district to reduce general fund subsidies for extracurricular activities, install a transportation preventative maintenance program, and renegotiate collective bargaining agreements to decrease the employer cost of dental and vision insurance.

On issues for further study, the report encouraged the district to dispense with unused and inoperable equipment, especially three buses that would reap the district a one-time income of $5,200.

The audit also offered an alternative of cutting 6.5 full-time employees, an 8 percent across-the-board staff reduction, a base and step freeze in pay, and elimination of the general fund subsidy of extracurricular activities.

In addition to offering solutions, the audit applauded some of the work the district is already doing to stave off the deficit, including communication, budget forecasting, and a groundskeeping contract that saved the district money.

As soon as Ingles and Anderson finished their presentation on the state audit, they left the meeting. Immediately, school board member Cory Coburn spoke up.

“Never once did they say anything about the levy,” he said. “They should have touched upon it as way that we are reaching out to the community that we need money.”

Voters will see a request for a 1.25 percent income tax on the May 8 primary election ballot.

Madison-Plains Treasurer Todd Mustain said the district is doing a little better than expected, what with the belt-tightening moves and a $152,000 payment from the village of Mount Sterling from the enterprise zone agreement.

“This brings (the village) up through 2017,” Mustain said. “We should be able to expect $40,000 to $50,000 a year for the next seven years.”

It was then time for Madison-Plains Superintendent Tim Dettwiller to present his budget-balancing plan, which he repeatedly stressed was for the immediate future, not five years down the road.

“None of this is easy,” he said referring to a proposal to eliminate 10 staff positions. His plan also proposes an increase in student fees to $70, and the phrase “pay to participate” was included, but with no figures.

District resident Rick Kelly agreed “it is hard to cut people’s jobs” and questioned positions of facilities manager and weight room supervisor.

Teachers got an overview of Dettwiller’s plan at a March 21 meeting.

In other business at the March 20 school board meeting, Dettwiller shared a report from Joe Penney, director of operations, who did not attend the meeting. The report touched on several areas where “there are decisions of whether we buy items for next year or put them on hold.”

The district’s communications committee has several ideas in the works, advocating for designation of one person to be the district’s spokesperson, creation of an alumni group, and development of a program on safety and security.

Athletic Director Matt Mason reported a good turnout for the winter sports banquet. He said a committee is looking into the cost of having three banquets, one each for fall, winter and spring sports, as opposed to having one for each sport.

In response to the various reports, school board member Kelly Cooley said, “Great things are happening here every day, and the community doesn’t know about it. I’m excited about it, and I think the community would be as excited as I am.”

The board also:

– accepted the resignations of Dettwiller and Penney;

– gave permission for eighth-graders to travel to Washington D.C. for a history and modern culture study. Students, their families, and fundraisers will pay for the trip, scheduled for May 10-13.

– approved an agreement with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus to provide athletic training services beginning July 1.

The board then recessed for an executive session to consider personnel issues and to confer with an attorney. The board also met in executive session March 21 to consider the procedure to follow in the search for a new superintendent.

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