LIMA — It’s been two weeks since Gov. Mike DeWine announced $300 million in cuts to public schools due to lower than expected tax revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local school districts now have a better idea on how they’ll deal with the short-term cuts and the likelihood of more cuts in the new state budget.
Lima schools are losing $432,231, but much of that will be offset by savings they made with buildings being closed.
“We looked at the cost savings during this closure of substitute teachers and fuel. That’s been a good savings for us,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools. “We feel like we’re going to be able to recoup that $400,000 which would just be this first three-month reduction. We’ll be OK. We’re not going to have to do any drastic cuts or anything like that to get that $400,000.”
Lima schools are also expecting CARES Act funds, which will also help.
“It’s pretty significant. I would say it’s probably in the neighborhood of close to $2 million,” Ackerman said.
What Ackerman is concerned about is what’s going to happen next school year.
“We’re doing some staffing things, moving some people around. We’ll right-size every time we can anyway. And then we just continue to look for opportunities to save money through attrition and things like that so that we, hopefully, down the road, wouldn’t be faced with having to make a bunch of cuts,” Ackerman said.
Shawnee schools are forced to cut $477,186 by the end of next month.
“Realistically, it’s almost too late. The steps and measures that we’ve taken so far — we’re going to see some reductions,” said James Kanable, superintendent of Shawnee schools. “We don’t have fuel costs. We’ve really scaled back temperatures within our buildings. Those types of things will garner those types of costs. Other than that, though, it’s all towards next year, and we’re going to incorporate those cuts into our next year planning.”
Shawnee will get some CARES Act funding, but it won’t go very far.
“We get, I believe, about $170,000 or $190,000, something like that total,” Kanable said.
Shawnee schools were hard hit by the cuts.
“They (the state) announced cuts to be 3.6-3.7%, but in our district it’s an 8.6% reduction for our district. We not only get the funds restricted coming in, but we also get it multiplied on it going out,” Kanable said.
As for specific cuts that might be coming, Kanable indicated that he doesn’t think anything is off the table.
“There has to be an open discussion with the board, and I don’t want to implement those until they’re really necessary, and by necessary, I mean that those are announced. But I think that those will be announced sometime over the summer,” Kanable said.
Allen East is already tackling the short-term cuts. The district stands to lose $188,471.
“Allen East made one cut through attrition and saved over $150,000 by staff retiring and replacing them with less expensive staff,” said Mel Rentschler, superintendent of Allen East schools. “Major projects such as the replacement of the track and refurbishing the gym floor have been delayed. The teacher’s union has agreed to take a 0% base raise for the 2020-21 school year. With all of the above, we will make it through the first round of cuts OK.”
Wapakoneta schools, which stands to lose $549,857, is counting on CARES Act funds to get them through the short-term cuts, but superintendent Aaron Rex has his eyes on what happens in the next school year’s budget.
“If it happens on a larger scale — some predictions say 10% —that would be a loss of approximately $1.6 million for our district. We also do not know what losses we will see in income taxes collected,” Rex said.
Rex added, “At Wapakoneta, we started to look at each line item immediately and identified areas where we could reduce our spending. Prioritizing our needs and making sure that the dollars we spend will have a direct impact on instruction is a priority. Some of the projects or areas we have spent money on in the past will be put on the back burner until we know more and funding has been stabilized. At this point, we have not taken any measures when it comes to staffing or programs for next year.”
For Continental schools, they’re still evaluating what needs to be done.
“At this time we have made no changes, but have begun looking forward at fiscal year ‘21 to see what areas we can adjust to save money,” said Danny Kissell, superintendent of Continental schools. “Continental has been very budget-conscious over the last 10 years, and we will continue to be going forward.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.