The Oregon City Schools and Northwood Local Schools districts are planning cuts in spending as a result of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget next year.
There is a 1.5-percent increase in state foundation funds to schools in Kasich’s $55.5 billion biennial budget, but funding to K-12 will be cut by 15 percent as a result of a loss in federal stimulus money and an accelerated phase-out of a tax on tangible personal property. Oregon would see an 11-percent reduction in funding, while Northwood’s funding would drop by 14-percent
“Our budget’s a moving target right now, so we’re kind of flying by the seat of out pants a little bit,” said Oregon School Board President Eric Heintschel. “We’re working on it. Our treasurer is on it, and our administrative team is continuing to look at our five year forecast to make sure we have as much up to date information as we can get.”
At a special board meeting Thursday night, the board eliminated three administrative positions and is reorganizing three others. Four-and-a-half teaching positions are being eliminated also, but culinary arts and a cosmetology teacher are being kept at part time.
The school board has also discussed putting an operating levy on the ballot, though no decision has been made.
“It’s purely in discussion phase right now. We don’t have a timetable set. We don’t know whether it’s going to be this year, or whether we’re going to try and hold off until next year. It’s very preliminary for a levy conversation. We’re looking at more additional cuts in spending,” he said.
Jane Fruth, treasurer of the district, said the board has been prepared for the cuts.
“We’re looking at around $2.2 million in reductions in state funding,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s not a problem, but we have been planning for these reductions.”
The district will lose 17-percent of its budget as a result of House Bill 66, she said. House Bill 66, passed by the Ohio State Legislature in 2005, phased out tax on tangible personal property of general businesses, telephone and telecommunications companies and railroads over a five year period. Districts were reimbursed fully for lost revenue over seven years. But Kasich plans to speed up the phased-out reimbursements, which caught many districts by surprise.
“We had a huge impact from HB 66,” said Fruth. “The district had been receiving $6.5 million in hold harmless payments. They accelerated that and so we’re losing that quicker than we anticipated.”
The district is also losing over $800,000 in electric deregulation funds that is being phased out, said Fruth.
“They’re eliminating that as well. We’re actually losing all that over a one year period,” she said.
The district’s five year forecast projects a $3 million spending deficit for Fiscal Year 2012.
The Northwood Local Schools District also expects to lose funding from the state as well as stimulus monies.
“It’s substantial,” said Greg Clark, superintendent. “We’re going to lose about $500,000.”
The district plans to make more spending cuts as a result, he said.
“This isn’t completely unexpected. We just didn’t know exactly how much it was going to be. I was hoping it would be less. It’s not a complete nightmare scenario. Early on, we were hearing there could be 25 percent cuts. I don’t know if you could cut your way out of that,” said Clark.
The school board has been making spending cuts for the last five years, he said.
“If you look at our five year forecast, we’ve been very frugal. We’ve done a good job of getting ourselves in a position to try and weather the storm. We do have a carryover balance, if we need to get ourselves over a hump. I don’t anticipate us being on the ballot with a levy in November,” he said.
The school board last June decided to close Lark Elementary School for the next school year, he said.
“We’ve been shrinking this district,” said Clark.
Starting this fall, all students will be taught in the three school buildings on the Lemoyne Road campus, he said. The district will operate a pre-school through second grade building, a third grade through sixth grade building and a seventh grade through twelfth grade building.
“So we were already going down that road,” he said.
“In the closure of Lark School, we’ll probably see some positions eliminated, which will help offset that big cut,” he said. “We’re in the process of determining how that’s going to work right now. So far, we’re able to offer the kids excellent educational opportunities. But at some point, there aren’t going to be any other structural things to do. It’s just going to be programs that get cut.”