Wauseon school leaders on Monday presented to the Board of Education plans designed to reverse the district’s financial difficulties. A fiscal precaution corrective action plan was approved by the board and a proposed income tax levy was discussed.
Treasurer David R. Fleming told the board that while a previously forecast spending deficit of $2.5 million in fiscal year 2023 was now lower, it was still $1.1 million.
“We’ve got to eliminate that negative,” he said.
Fleming and Superintendent Troy Armstrong came together to create a plan that would eliminate the deficit spending. They were able to do it without extra revenue, but the process would be painful.
There would be six school district employees laid off in January 2022 with 20 more the next school year.
However, approval of a proposed earned income tax levy in November would eliminate the need for those staffing cuts.
“What’s going to fix this problem is the income tax levy, it’s not laying people off,” Fleming said.
He added that a new income tax would be a long term fix for the district. Cutting 26 staff members would help finances in the short term, but long term issues would remain and deficit spending would continue.
“When it comes to November, it’s decision time in Wauseon,” Fleming said.
The exact amount of the income tax levy has not been decided. It appears likely it would be at least 1.75%, but an additional 0.25% or 0.5% for capital improvements is also a possibility. Fleming said if the district is doing well financially in the future, the Board would have the option of using a tax holiday to reduce the income tax a year at a time.
A 1.75% income tax was originally planned for the November 2020 ballot, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. That is one of many reasons the district has landed in its current financial situation, Fleming said, citing unfunded mandates from the state as a substantial factor.
A hiring freeze was implemented and positions were being eliminated through attrition prior to the pandemic taking hold. After it did, the district and its teachers agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding that reduced negotiated pay increases.
In November, voters approved a substitute levy to replace an emergency levy. That will bring in approximately $40,000 in additional revenue annually.
Despite those actions, the district remains in a difficult financial spot.
“We have to take the message to our community that, if we want to continue the level of education we have, and move it on, we have to have this income tax,” said Armstrong.
Also at the meeting, the Board approved a resolution committing Wauseon athletics to the Northwest Ohio Athletic League in its current form. Archbold, Bryan, Liberty Center, and Patrick Henry boards have passed similar resolutions.
There has been some talk of Evergreen, Swanton and Delta possibly leaving the league.
In other business, the board accepted the following donations: $87 from Velma Horst, $599.15 from Larry and Melda Richer, and $1,000 from The Greg and Sherry Suon Charitable Fund of In Faith Community Foundation, all to the elementary school food pantry; an automated external defibrillator (AED) and wall bracket – total value, $1,500 – from the Fulton County Heart Radiothon to the school district; and gallons and quarts of paint from Ace Hardware and $50 from the Black Swamp Arts Council to the school district art department.
Board members passed motions to: adopt Fiscal Year 2021 permanent appropriations – Energy Project Interest, $70; scholarships, $1,000; facilities and maintenance, $16,035; ESSER II, $725,666.61; IDEA B, $25,264.58; Title I, $16,250.51; Title IIA, $1,358.80; and Title IV, $890.98; approve modifications and supplemental modifications to the Fiscal Year 2021 Certificate of Estimated Resources; approve NEOLA bylaw policies additions and revisions for first reading; and approve a resolution naming Poggemeyer Design Group as architect of the primary school roofing project and negotiating services.
In personnel matters, the board approved: the Rachel Wixey and Associates substitute list, and authorization for the company to hire substitutes with a one-year temporary non-bachelor’s substitute teaching license; the resignations of social studies teacher Frederick Collar, effective June 1, and bus drivers Dennis Peabody and Rebecca Peabody, effective Aug. 1, all for the purposes of retirement; a one-year limited administrative contract to Sonia Jacobs as the district’s COVID-19 coordinator for school year 2020-21, effective April 1; Michael Colon as substitute van driver for school year 2020-21; Mike Colon, Tracy Elson, Joy Hutchinson, Matt Hutchinson, Ashley Oyer, Bob Schultz, and Santana Villarreal as OHSAA tournament workers, retroactive to Feb. 18 and Feb. 26.
Michelle Leatherman, director of Instructional Services, offered a presentation about her department, focusing on equity literacy and social-emotional learning.
The board entered in executive session to discuss employment of an employee. No action was taken.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010