Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
State recommends $1.7M in cuts
St. Marys school board hears audit results
By Ed Gebert
ST. MARYS - Auditor of State's Office representative Mark Ingles on Tuesday presented school board members the results of a performance audit, which was triggered by the deficit spending and low operating balances predicted in the district's May five-year financial forecast.
The audit contained recommendations for about $1.7 million in budget cuts together with another series of savings measures to erase the $6.3 million negative balance predicted for the end of 2022.
The performance audit report was released on the Auditor of State's website on Tuesday morning. Ingles said the audit's goal was to keep the district from receiving a status indicating fiscal watch, fiscal caution or fiscal emergency.
"St. Marys is currently not in any of those categories, but the goal of this audit was to identify areas where they could improve operations to prevent falling into any of those designations," he said. "If they would fall into one of those designations, there would be more oversight from the Ohio Department of Education as well as the State Auditor's Office."
The additional measures recommended by the auditor's office included eliminating eight full-time equivalent teaching positions nearly to the state minimum level; a 6 percent across-the-board staff reduction of all employees, which would result in the equivalent of an additional eight and a half employees being released; adding two years to the current base and step salary freeze beyond what has already been negotiated; or eliminating the general fund subsidy of extracurricular activities by cutting expenses dealing with away games from coaching to bus transportation.
"These four options are severe. These are just some options the district could consider to get themselves out of the hole," Ingles said.
Ingles also made recommendations such as refining purchase practices of custodial staples and switching all employees to a high-deductible health insurance, dental and vision plan.
In November 2017, the board sought the input of a consultant versed in school budgets and school financing in Ohio. Based on the recommendations of that consultant, the board cut operating expenses by $800,000 and sought the passage of a 1.5-percent earned-income tax. That levy was rejected by 59 percent of district voters. The board then reduced expenses by an additional $385,000 and is asking for a 1-percent earned-income tax on the Nov. 6 ballot to raise about $2.6 million annually for five years.
The board has also announced a list of probable cuts that will need to take place if the levy fails. Many of those cuts are similar to the state audit's four main suggestions.
Superintendent Bill Ruane noted in a prepared written statement, "The district feels that the suggestions in the performance audit doesn't go deep enough," as the ending balance at the end of 2022 would be only $98, enough for half a tank of gas for one of the district's buses, Ruane wrote. The district's budget-cut plan would put the district on stable financial ground if voters reject the earned-income tax.
Also on Tuesday, board members approved the district's updated five-year financial forecast presented by treasurer Robin Laman.
Laman had previewed the forecast last Wednesday at a work session, showing continued deficit spending through fiscal year 2023 if spending trends continue unchanged and no new income is generated. If the trend continues, the difference between revenues and expenditures would be $4.66 million, depleting the cash balance to negative $12.7 million by 2023.
If the proposed earned-income tax is approved in November and the emergency property tax levy, which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2019, is renewed, Laman projects the general fund would be able to maintain a cash balance to cover only 30-40 days of expenses, rather than the 60 days recommended by the government finance officers association.
Members also approved the resignation of middle school cook Samantha Clouser and approved an extended unpaid maternity leave for intermediate school teacher Chloe Tascoff. Kaye Burd was appointed as a substitute cook, substitute custodian, substitute paraprofessional and substitute bus aide.
Hannah Kangsdon, Richard Tangeman and Vickie Wehner were approved as substitute teachers; Jamie Feathers and Melissa Wenning were approved as middle school cooks; Abby Hirschfield and Susan Wierwille as substitute cooks; Donald Dietz as a substitute cook and substitute custodian; Mark Fledderjohann as substitute bus aide and substitute paraprofessional; and Kylie Samples-Craft as substitute paraprofessional and substitute bus aide.
Supplemental contracts also went to Tim Hisey and Garrett Hower as co-junior varsity wrestling coaches and Michael Schmitmeyer as freshman boys basketball coach.
In other actions, members,
• authorized reappointing Linda Schloemer to the St. Marys Community Public Library board. Her term now runs through 2025.
• approved the reimbursement of the parent of a child with special needs for transportation for the 2018-2019 school year.
• approved the district's tuition rate of $3,792 as determined by the Ohio Department of Education. That would be the rate the district could charge if it did not accept open-enrollment students.