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Warren board weighs $1.8M in cuts

Superintendent: ‘I don’t want to make these recommendations ... but facts are facts,”

January 11, 2011
By Kate York,

Warren Local Schools' superintendent made a series of recommendations to the board of education Monday that would save the district more than $1.8 million a year, while eliminating jobs, programs and services.

Superintendent Tom Gibbs said the district is facing three financial challenges: a financial forecast of a deficit in two-and-a-half years, aging facilities that need costly emergency repairs and an uncertain state budget that could mean the school system sees significant cuts in state funding.

"I don't want to make these recommendations ... but facts are facts," he said. "This is a business we're operating and we're getting to the point where we literally legally can't reduce anymore."

If an 8.76-mill bond issue and tax levy on a Feb. 8 special election ballot in the district would pass, it would solve the facilities issue and create a healthier general fund by subtracting the hundreds of thousands of dollars the district has to spend yearly on repairs, Gibbs said.

"It would alleviate two of our problems," he said.

In order to reduce spending in the district, Gibbs presented a plan that included cutting teachers and other staff, eliminating high school busing and eliminating athletic and supplemental academic programs, although those could be offered through a pay-to-participate program.

Fact Box


7 a.m. Jan. 24, administration office, special meeting.

6:30 p.m. Feb. 14, administration office, regular meeting.

The board, and about 50 people who attended Monday's meeting at Warren Elementary, heard a staffing analysis from Ohio Department of Education official Tom Gumpf that let them know how many positions Warren schools could legally eliminate.

Gumpf said the state formula, which counts only regular education students and teachers, puts the district at 9.3 teachers above state minimum and 2.16 above the state minimum in the educational support personnel category. That category includes elementary art, music and physical education teachers and district-wide nurses and guidance counselors.

"When you look at the history of the district in the last four fiscal years, they've gone from being 24 regular education classroom teachers above state minimum to 9.3 now," said Gumpf. "They've also reduced almost six educational support personnel in those four years."

Total expenditures in the district are less now than in 2006, despite rising costs, he said.

Being so few teachers over minimum will make saving money through staff reductions "very difficult," said Gumpf.

"That's very tight," he said.

Aside from classrooms teachers, Warren Local Schools had made staff reductions of more than 50 full-time positions in the last five years not counted in that formula, said Gibbs.

Those includes eliminating the positions of assistant superintendent and treasurer, an elementary principal, a grant writer, and an athletic director.

"We've cut the heck out of our administration," he said. "People love to say we're top-heavy but it's just not true."

One of the last-resort savings options presented in his recommendations included saving $80,000 by eliminating another administrative position but Gibbs said it would be very challenging to determine where that reduction could be made.

His other recommendations included cutting the 9.3 teaching positions and 2.16 personnel positions over the state's minimum requirements. The teaching cuts recommended were five elementary positions, two high school industrial arts teachers, one high school business teacher, one high school Chinese teacher and reallocating high school music and art teachers to also assist at the junior high level.

The educational support personnel recommendation was to eliminate one elementary art and one elementary physical education teacher.

The plan also included the loss of two custodial jobs, one at Warren Elementary and one at Little Hocking Elementary.

"The impact here would be that we wouldn't be able to keep the buildings open after school for community use or we would have to start charging fees to pay for a sub to come clean up," Gibbs said.

Reducing two clerical support positions, two special education teaching positions and eliminating bus routes to and from the high school were the final components of the plan.

Eliminating high school busing would save about $386,000 a year.

All the recommendations would save the district a total of $1,855,500 annually, Gibbs said.

"In the next year or two it's likely many if not all of these reductions will have been made," he said. "And if we get (an estimated $1 million a year) reduction in state aid, if we can't pass a bond issue that would give us $42 million from the state then we're not only going to be sitting here with all these things cut but we're not going to have safe buildings. We won't be able to afford the repairs."

Gibbs said he's aware of the reluctance of district voters to pass the already twice-failed bond issue but that its passage would provide crucial funds to the school system, more efficient buildings and a middle school-high school campus that would allow staff to be better utilized and lessen the impact of layoffs on academics.

The board didn't vote on any of the recommendations Monday.



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