FORT SHAWNEE — Shawnee schools has been operating at a deficit since 2009, resulting in budget cuts and difficult choices as the district tries to live within a budget set by voters 15 years ago.
Today, Superintendent James Kanable said that deficit fluctuates between $1.8 million and $2 million—down slightly due to cost savings amid the pandemic. But the shortfalls have prompted the district to ask voters for an additional property-tax levy for the second time in three years.
The $2.2 million, five-year levy before voters this spring would drastically improve the district’s financial status, allowing Shawnee schools to invest further in STEAM education, classroom technology, professional development and mental health services.
But voters rejected the district’s appeal the last time Shawnee schools asked for an additional levy in 2018, which culminated in $600,000 in budget cuts. The last levy approved by voters was in 2004.
If the latest levy fails, Kanable says the district will rely on the $1.8 million in pandemic-relief dollars Shawnee schools is anticipating this spring. “And we’ll be back to the voters again,” he said.
There have already been trade-offs. When Shawnee schools adopted a 1:1 student-technology program for grades 5-12, Kanable said the district chose not to buy another school bus so it could support the program.
The additional levy would help support that program, Kanable said, earmarking dollars for tech support and professional development so teachers learn effective methods to incorporate technology into their lesson plans.
The district may also hire a mental health coordinator to work with the district’s in-house counselors and the Mental health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties, which provides more advanced mental health services for students and families in crisis.
“We’re just seeing more issues with our youngsters having not been at school, dealing with issues and pressures around the stay-at-home academic pressures and things they didn’t have to deal with (before),” Kanable said. “But now that they’re faced with those issues, we’re finding we need some more help there. This money will definitely allow us to enhance that.”