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District to see cuts if levy passes or fails
On Feb. 9, South-Western City School officials announced that a four-year 8.3-mill operating levy, that would keep the district in the black for the next two years, would be on the May 5 ballot, but they will still have to make budget cuts regardless of a victory or a defeat.
“The fact that this operating levy will not keep the budget balanced for the next four years, and we have to make cuts along with it, is a very difficult thing to digest,” said board of education member Randy Reisling.
Then the news got worse when the South-Western Schools Board of Education held a special meeting on Feb. 10 to discuss cost containment strategies and Superintendent Dr. William Wise laid out how much the district will have to make in cuts.
“What we need to make is $6.3 million in reductions if the levy is not successful and $1.6 million in reductions if it is successful,” he said.
Cuts will be an inevitable part of the next school year, but officials said with Gov. Ted Strickland’s education reform plan in the Ohio House and possible federal stimulus money coming to the district for specific programs, it is hard to accurately say which positions or activities could be eliminated.
“We have to make these cut projections based on the financial information we have today,” said Wise. “I can’t promise that it won’t change, but it is what we have to go on as of today.”
Included with the $1.6 million reduction considerations are plans to reduce the district’s overall budget by 10 percent, and cutting at least 14 personnel positions.
If the 8.3-mill operating levy fails and the district has to slash $6.3 million from its budget, the cuts would include eliminating four administrators and 50 (combined) certificated and classified positions.
Also included in the reduction considerations are:
•merging Harrisburg Elementary and Darbydale Elementary and relocating services provided at the Kingston School;
•eliminate high school busing;
•eliminate middle and high school sports, along with all extra-curricular activities; and
•revisit the state minimum of having students who live within a two mile radius of a school to walk there.
The announcement of these numerous budget reduction considerations seemed to raise the hackles of all the administrators present.
“I always found it to be distasteful to talk to boards of education about cost containment strategies,” said Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner. “We’re talking about an obligation to balance the budget against academics, support for students and the impact it will have on the staff in the district.”
While officials have been resigned to the $1.6 million in cuts, they are hoping the $6.3 million in cuts will not come to fruition on May 5.
If the levy is approved, (a combined 6-mill operating levy and 3.69-mill bond issue was rejected last November) the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $254 annually.
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