BOE Reviews Possible Cuts

ST. MARYS — The St. Marys City Schools Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday night to confirm a list of budget cuts that will be implemented if the levy does not pass this May.

Superintendent Shawn Brown presented the board with a tentative draft of programs and positions that will have to be eliminated. The board has already approved $760,000 in cuts, including the elimination of transportation services for students in grades 9 through 12 and for those students in grades K through 8 who live within a 2-mile radius of their school. The board also agreed to eliminate all-day, every day kindergarten as part of these previous budget cuts.

Brown presented and the board approved a list of cuts that is organized in incremental amounts. For example, if reductions have to equal $600,000, the items that will be eliminated are Mobile Learning Devices, a part-time secretary, Vocational Agriculture and the Virtual Learning Academy. The items that will be implemented at this level are a pay-to-participate system for athletics and some other extracurricular activities and state minimum busing.

“My recommendation if the levy passes is that we don’t have any sort of pay-to-participate, and we continue as we have in the past,” Brown said, noting there was discussion of other schools who tried this and saw a large number of students who left the district because of it.

Athletics currently cost the district approximately $230,000 a year, and Brown broke down how much each student wishing to participate would have to pay to cover different percentages of that cost.

If students were responsible for 100 percent of that $230,000, each student would have to pay $275 per activity per year.

At students covering 75 percent of the cost, the price decreases to $206 per participant per activity.

Board members agreed that since so many district families have multiple students in multiple sports and activities, there should be a limit as to how much an individual student will pay and as to how much a family will pay per year.

The board voted that $225 would be the individual student cap and that $450 would be the family cap. These numbers would be implemented starting the fall of 2013, all contingent on the levy’s failure.

Brown suggested that for middle school plays or musicals, students be asked to pay either the full cost per participant at $107 or $80 to cover 75 percent of the cost.

High school plays would potentially cost students $300 per student if they are required to cover 100 percent of that cost, or $225 if they are required to cover only 75 percent.

High school musicals would cost participants either $223 or $167 at those percentages, and choir would cost students $37 or $28. To participate in band would cost students $113 at 100 percent of the cost or $85 at 75 percent of the cost.

The board discussed the option of having band and choir funded through a class fee, meaning it would not be counted under the pay-to-participate program.

“The issue I have with charging a class fee is then, people who are free or reduced lunch are not having to pay that fee, but all of us who are not in that situation are having to pay extra for the same thing. I don’t think that’s right,” President Lisa Tobin said.

The next level of reductions is capped off at $987,000, and will include going to one Director of Bands and eliminating one Library Technician at the Middle School/High School, one part-time secretary at the Central Office, the Latin program at Memorial High School, the Gifted program, a Primary Paraprofessional, an Intermediate Paraprofessional, the Probation/Truancy Officer, and the Business Manager.

Brown went as high as $1.5 million and $1.97 million in cuts, which would include cutting many more programs in the district’s schools, including French at the Middle School and High School, Business at the High School, and Spanish at the Middle School and High School.

At the highest reduction level, physical education and art would be cut at the Middle and High School as well.

One major point of frustration was the fact that Gov. John Kasich’s budget, which will determine what, if any, funding the district will receive from the state, could remain unfinished until June 30.

“Our professional organizations are working hard with the legislators to try to get it changed,” Treasurer Tom Sommer said.

“And I know that Governor Kasich doesn’t have total support from all of his constituents.”

District guidance counselors are waiting for a final breakdown of a budget in order to start scheduling classes. They discussed waiting until August, as some schools do, but Brown recommended putting the schedule together now as if the levy had already passed, just to be prepared.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” Board Member Ronda Shelby said.

“We have to have some type of plan ready, that we foresee as, ‘this is the outcome,’ (so) that people in the district have some idea, this is what we have to do. And you can tell it’s very difficult for all of us. It almost brings you to tears to look at this. I mean, I look out at the people we have here today, at the amount of work they do now for us, and the hole where it puts them to do the jobs that they do. They’re in limbo.”