2014-05-24 / News

Board trying to spare extra curriculars from budget cuts

By Scott Rawdon

MILLERSPORT- Walnut Township Schools Superintendent Randy Cotner knows one thing for certain.

“We will be back on the ballot in November,” he told about 50 people at a special school board meeting Monday to discuss budget cuts. Voters crushed an additional 6.9 mill levy May 6 by an unofficial 628-352 vote.

“We have some very difficult decisions ahead of us,” said Cotner.

Monday, school board members agreed not to fill three positions– a bus driver, an educational aide, and a media specialist – that were vacant through attrition, meaning the former employees voluntarily left the positions. Treasurer Kirk Grandy said not filling the positions would save the district about $160,000 per year, but it’s not enough to keep the district from the November ballot.

For now, “We have no intention of cutting extra curriculars at this time,” said Cotner, who assured parents at the meeting that this summer’s extra-curricular activities would not affected. However, that could change if the levy fails again in November.

On the November ballot, it will appear as an existing emergency levy with an increase. The levy up for renewal brings in $258,000 a year. With the increase, the levy, if voters approve, will bring in $1 million a year, an increase of $742,000. Grandy believes the increase will amount to 4.8 mills rather the 6.9 mills rejected May 6.

“It really is a 4.8 mill increase instead of 6.9 mills,” Grandy explained. That also means board members will have to find at least $258,000 in cuts a year.

Grandy added that the district would receive the revenue in February, regardless if it had been approved May 6 or if it is approved in November. Approval, he said, would only “get the district out of the woods” for a couple years, after which the district would need to pursue additional funding.

A resident told the board she felt like the school board was “jerking” people and “playing numbers games.”

Cotner said the board’s goal is to save what the district has today as much as possible, “but the voters spoke loudly,” and following the May 6 defeat, cuts were inevitable.

A resident also said some people believe the district office has too many employees. Cotner said he and Grandy are the lowest paid superintendent and treasurer in Fairfield County.

Another district resident said he wasn’t informed of public meetings where the May levy was discussed and would’ve attended had he been aware of them.

Board President Faye Whitaker assured the resident and everyone at the meeting that there would be many public meetings leading up to the November ballot and the board will work hard to inform everyone of times and places.

“We will, without a doubt, be on the November ballot,” said Cotner. He said if the November levy goes down, extra-curricular activity cuts likely wouldn’t be implemented until a year from this July, but extra-curricular cuts would be likely. If the levy passes, all extra-curricular activities are safe, at least through 2016.

Board member Vince Popo said he will consider any suggestions for helping the district to pass the November levy or improve the district’s financial situation, and encouraged people to contact him at vincepopo012251@gmail.com.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 2, in the elementary school library, changed from June 3.

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