COLUMBUS — Area school superintendents and treasurers are getting their first look at how their districts would be affected by some $300 million in cuts that Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.
It’s all part of an effort to trim $775 million from the state budget because of lower than expected revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio is mandated to balance the budget each year.
Besides the $300 million in Foundation payment cuts to K-12 schools for the next two months, DeWine is cutting another $110 million that would have been earmarked for higher education and $210 million from the state’s Medicaid program. He’s also cutting another $55 million from other unspecified education line items.
DeWine won’t tap into the $2.7 billion rainy day fund until the new fiscal year, which begins in July.
The announcement was not a surprise to most, but the amount of the cuts were.
“We anticipated things were going to happen,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools. “We just found out yesterday when we listened to that 2 o’clock press conference (with DeWine) and then we’re scrambling around all day to try and figure out what that dollar amount is. So, now we know what it is.”
Lima school’s cuts were $432,231.
Many are concerned about what’s coming next school year, too.
“Based upon what we have been hearing for a few weeks, we did expect a reduction in funding at some point during this crisis,” said Aaron Rex, superintendent of Wapakoneta schools. “This will be in addition to what we will see in a loss of income taxes, property taxes and possibly future cuts that could take place from the state.”
“We know this is just kind of a first round,” Ackerman said. “We have to really think about a lot of things — one would be finances, and where can we begin to look at being very frugal. And then the second part of it is really not knowing what school will look like in the fall. How do you really plan for that and staffing needs and things like that, too? So it’s all just overwhelming to try to lay it out when you don’t know the direction you’re going in.”
Rex says they’ve got a chance to crunch the numbers, and it doesn’t look good.
“The cuts for Wapakoneta City Schools amounts to $549,857 over the next two months. Our school system will look for ways to cut spending, offset the cuts with other funding sources and do our best to deal with the loss of funding,” Rex said.
Delphos schools recently passed a .5% traditional income tax but that money won’t help them right now.
Delphos will see cuts of $239,323.
“Our district and our communities worked very hard to dig out of the hole that we were in,” said Doug Westrick, superintendent of Delphos schools. “We are forecasting a $71,000 deficit by the end of June and we’ve worked pretty hard to get ourselves out of that situation by selling a building, by, spending freezes and hiring freezes. Due to our shutdown, we weren’t spending money on substitute teachers and fueling buses. Our community stepped up and passed the levy and we’ve got ourselves on decent footing and now all of a sudden, we get this news and we’re back with a deficit again. We’re the only district in the state of Ohio with a deficit.”
Ottoville will lose $98,678.
“It’s scary because it tells me what might come in the future as soon as next year,” said Scott Mangas, superintendent of Ottoville schools. “We actually told our staff two weeks ago that things were going to have to tighten up and change. Things we used to say yes to we’re probably going to say no to and we’ll make cuts where we can — if we can. Right now, we don’t have any fat. I mean, there’s not a position that I would say oh yeah, we can do without that special ed aide or we could do out without that high school elective. We’re bare-bones the way it is.”
Elida schools will lose $480,825.
“Right now, with this fiscal year, there’s not many changes we can make at this point,” said Joel Mengerink, superintendent of Elida schools.
“Any changes that we really do is going to have more of an impact in the fall and until we get some more clarity as to what the fall is going to look like, I think that’s still going to be a big challenge,” Mengerink said.
Mengerink believes the state orders will have a ripple effect on local tax collections as well.
“We expect to see more delinquencies on property tax payments due to people being out of work. Fortunately, we don’t have an income tax, but the school districts that do also have to worry about seeing decreased revenues for the same reasons with people being out of work,” Mengerink said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.