After a work session last month Eastwood school board members have resigned themselves to the prospect of reduced funding from the state and the resulting need to cut the district’s budget in the coming fiscal year.
“We are anticipating that within the next month we will see a retroactive reduction of roughly 5 percent in the amount of money we were expecting from the state,” said superintendent Brent Welker in his community newsletter. “That would total around $330,000. In addition, we are planning for an additional 5 percent reduction for the fiscal year 2010 state funds. In all, we are looking at roughly $600,000 that will need to be cut from next year’s budget. We hope that the cuts will not be greater than that.”
School officials have begun to discuss where the cuts may start, he said, and intend to have more specific plans when figures from the state are confirmed.
Proposed cuts will probably be announced during the board’s meetings in February or March of next year.
The district is looking to save money in personnel. Mr. Welker said several retirements are expected and the replacement costs for those employees will “be significantly lower.” Also, one or two may not be replaced.
“It is important for people to understand that we will be reducing expenses,” he said “These reductions are going to cut into programming and support. Contrary to the beliefs of some we really are fairly lean as far as staff goes.”
He said there are no plans to increase operating revenues but the district will need to renew an emergency levy that expires in 2010 and an income tax in 2011.
Before making a decision on whether or not to again seek local funding to leverage money from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for a new school building, school officials plan to conduct a survey of the district.
Mr. Welker said a brief survey will be mailed to registered voters as well as being posted online with a link through his email.
“We need the data from this survey to make a decision,” he said.
Eastwood voters last month rejected a 5.8-mill, 28-year bond issue to fund the local share of construction costs for a new building on the central campus that would have housed kindergarten through eighth grade classes.
The Eastwood district qualified for about $13.5 million in funding through the OSFC to help pay for part of the construction costs of a new elementary building.
In addition, the school board and administration planned about $3 million in other improvements, including a new heating pump system at the high school, a pitched roof with a 40-year guarantee and hard surface tile flooring for the proposed K-8 elementary building, and a faster cable Internet to the central campus – all of which aren’t covered by OSFC funding.
In all, the bond issue would have generated about $18.3 million for the building and other improvements.
Mr. Welker said he’s heard from opponents of the bond issue, including those who cited the state of the economy for voting against the issue and others who said taxes are already too high.
“The board needs to know if there is any wiggle room with those voters and if there is any plan or change in conditions that would garner their support,” he said. “There is no reason to place an issue back on the ballot unless we believe it has some chance to pass.”
One option could be for the district to change its master plan for the project and seek voter approval for a new K-5 building instead of a larger building.