Area school districts will be hit hard by COVID-19 related budget cuts and could see more cuts next school year. Last week, Governor Mike DeWine announced cuts that included $300 million to Ohio schools.
All of the cuts will be for the last two months of the fiscal year, May and June. The five largest districts in Fulton County will all lose at least $237,000.
Pike Delta York schools will lose $250,000 this fiscal year.
“With the district continuously attempting to live within our means, we do not have a lot of fat. Additionally, our local school district tax rate for the PDY resident has remained low; in fact, our local school tax rate is the second lowest in the county,” said Superintendent Ted Haselman. “The state’s reduction in PDY’s funding is a huge hit to our budget, and unfortunately will require the district to again closely analyze what expenses could be cut even more along with seeking additional funding elsewhere.”
Swanton Local Schools will see a loss of $237,857. Superintendent Chris Lake and Treasurer Joyce Kinsman have just started to take a look at what those cuts mean for the district.
“Right now she is looking at the impact it will have on the five-year forecast. Once we know what that looks like we can begin to look at things we can do to curtail spending for the district,” said Lake. “Obviously, cuts of any kind are difficult for the district. Given the current economic climate we were already anticipating a drop in our school district income tax collections, and now that the state has piled on it will be a deeper cut to the bottom line.”
Lake said he was expecting cuts to school funding, but not necessarily for this fiscal year.
“That caught me and many of my colleagues by surprise. Sadly, I do believe that more cuts will be coming for next fiscal year as well,” he said.
Lake added he is disappointed that education took the biggest hit in DeWine’s announced cuts, especially after the way educators responded when schools were closed.
”All of our employees jumped in with both feet to change the way we do business for the benefit of our students. Teachers adapted quickly to online learning, our food service workers began preparing and delivering meals, bus drivers volunteered to help deliver the meals, and on down the line everyone stepped up,” Lake said. “Our reward for all of that effort is this funding cut. It really is a slap in the face for dedicated educators across the state.”
State Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) opposed the cuts for a similar reason.
“Public schools have become lifelines to communities throughout the pandemic. With only a few days’ notice, educators found new ways to provide students with free meals, Wi-Fi hot spots, and so much more,” she said. “Our public schools are already being asked to do more with less and announcing these drastic cuts on Teacher Appreciation Day was a devastating blow to the professionals who are heroes to Ohio’s students.”
Wauseon schools will see a $290,502 reduction in state funding for the 2019-2020 school year, with a projection of $1,125,000 for the 2020-2021 school year, according to Superintendent Troy Armstrong.
“Although I understand the K-12 funding cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public education continues to receive funding reductions year after year,” he said. “Funding reductions mean we must reduce district expenditures and potentially return to taxpayers for support.”
Almost $192,000 in funding from the CARES Act will lessen the blow a bit, but the impact will still be felt.
Prior to COVID-19 the district reduced the 2020-2021 school year budget by $368,000 in an effort to continue fiscal responsibility. It also applied for and/or received various grants totalling $128,758.52 for the current school year.
During the most recent recession, the district cut $1 million in spending during the 2009-2010 school year by reducing staffing and supplies and increasing fees. As of today, Armstrong is uncertain what cuts may need to be made.
“The entire Wauseon school community will persevere and ultimately navigate through this pandemic,” he said.
Pettisville’s funding loss of $72,904 will be slightly blunted by CARES act funding of $19,413. Superintendent Steve Switzer said that challenge is that, being so late in the fiscal year, not a lot can be done regarding cuts or reductions.
“We had anticipated things being tight both this and next year, with the state providing no new general dollars either year, but looking at cuts on top of flat funding to start with just exacerbates things and makes a bad situation ever more challenging,” said Switzer.
Next school year, Pettisville officials will be looking for additional ways to save dollars and reduce expenditures.
Fayette Local Schools have already put some plans in place to deal with the cut of $72,658.
“For the current budget cuts that were just released and need to be implemented within the next two months, we are able to recoup the amount using the CARES money and savings from being out of session since March,” said Superintendent Angie Belcher. Those savings include pay for subs, bus fuel, and electricity.
To prepare for possible cuts next school year, the district is holding off on hiring paraprofessionals and fall coaching positions until June, since the possibility of remote education or delay of fall sports would change a need for these positions.
“In preparation for further budget reductions that may come we are meeting as a team to look at where we can potentially make cuts within each department, but hoping those will be for the following school year,” said Belcher.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010