State auditor outlines Groveport Madison schools cuts

A performance audit released Dec. 16 by State Auditor Mary Taylor offers suggestions and observations on how the Groveport Madison school district could save up to $3 million per year.

"The district has been encouraged to use the results of the performance audit as a resource in further improving its overall operations, service delivery, and financial stability," wrote Taylor in the report.

Auditor’s recommendations/cuts

Some of the recommended cuts, and their estimated savings, outlined by the auditor that are not subject for negotiation under collective bargaining agreements:

•reduce five educational support staff, $432,000;
•reduce eight teachers and two school nurses, $653,000;
•increase employee contribution toward health insurance premiums to 15 percent for administrators, $97,000;
•implement sick leave abuse policies and incentives to reduce sick leave use, $116,000;
•reduce custodial staff by seven and increase maintenance staff by two, $172,000;
•reduce six school buses, $307,000;
•collect motor fuel tax refund, $11,000; and
•charge proportional utility and trash collection expenditures to food service fund, $55,000.
Recommended cuts, and their estimated savings, outlined by the auditor that are subject for negotiation under collective bargaining agreements:
•phase out six librarian positions and replace them with library aides, $159,000 to $335,000;
•increase employee contribution toward health insurance premiums to 15 percent for certified staff, $744,000;
•negotiate with contractor to replace school buses at 13 years of age instead of 11, $47,000; and
•negotiate with contractor to allow the district to replace some special needs buses with taxi cabs, $207,000.
Additional potential auditor recommendations for the district include:
•developing a "clearly written, multi-year strategic plan;
•improving internal controls over financial areas;
•discontinuing the use of paper pay stubs and make use of electronic pay capabilities; and
•reducing food service labor hours and considering an increase in lunch prices at the high school.

District snapshot

The Groveport Madison school district is approximately 40 square miles with an enrollment of around 5,900. The annual median income of the district’s residents’ is $30,435. The percentage of residents at or under the poverty level is 39.8 percent.

More audit information

To see the state auditor’s full audit report on Groveport Madison Local Schools, visit www.auditor.state.oh.us.

District response/background

In a letter to Taylor dated Dec. 2, Groveport Madison Superintendent Scott McKenzie and Treasurer Anthony Swartz wrote the district intends to "seriously consider the recommendations that have been made." They noted some suggestions made by the auditor are already being implemented such as creating a comprehensive financial report, putting financial information on the district’s Web site, and tracking fuel usage.

At the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Dec. 10 meeting, Swartz said, based on a count made in October, the district has 200 fewer students enrolled this year compared to last year. He said this, coupled with state cuts in parity aid and poverty based assistance, translates in the loss of about $1.2 million in state funding for the district.

On top of this loss of funding, Swartz warned the district will most likely lose additional funding from the state, which is having its own budget woes.

Swartz said many of the 200 fewer students appear to now be enrolled in the Groveport Community School charter school, which added grades seven and eight to its school this year.

McKenzie said the district could possibly lose up to 200 more next year when Groveport Community School adds a high school to its complex. McKenzie added that there are 1,048 students who live in the district but who do not attend Groveport Madison schools, opting instead to attend charter or private schools.

The rejection last November of the district’s 8.06 mill operating levy means Groveport Madison could be in the hole by about $890,840 by fiscal year 2010.

Additional revenue from the levy would have helped the district deal with the increasing costs of operations as well as help offset the more than $750,000 the district has to pay back to the state as a result of the state’s miscalculations of Groveport Madison’s share of state school funding. It would have also helped pay for utility bills, salaries, educational materials, classroom technology, tutoring, building maintenance, student transportation, and extra-curricular activities.

With the looming loss of state funding, coupled with the levy’s defeat, McKenzie said district administration officials are in the process of budget reduction discussions and making plans to place a levy on the May 5 ballot.

McKenzie said administrative officials are preparing a list of recommended cuts  for the district that will be brought to the board’s Jan. 14 meeting for review. Then the proposed reductions will be presented at three community forums, tentatively scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on:

•Jan. 20 at Middle School North;
•Jan. 21 at Middle School South;
•Jan. 26 at the high school.

Information from the community meetings regarding the proposed cuts will then be compiled and discussed at a board work session before the board’s February meeting. A finalized list of reductions, along with a levy request, would then be voted on at the school board’s Feb. 11 meeting. The district must file its levy request with the Franklin County Board of Elections by Feb. 19 to appear on the May ballot.

McKenzie said some of the proposed cuts could be reinstated if a levy passes, but others would remain in place regardless whether or not a levy is approved.
 

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