XENIA — Greene County superintendents expressed concern for their districts after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $300 million reduction in K-12 education funding this week.
The cuts, made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will occur during May and June and range from 1.71 percent to 2.2 percent of county schools’ operating budgets. Cuts were also made to Medicaid ($210 million); higher education ($110 million); other education budget line items ($55 million) and other state agencies ($100 million).
“I knew it was coming,” said Greeneview Superintendent Isaac Seevers. “Didn’t know how large it would be. This is a two-month cut. What’s the next 12 months going to look like after that?”
Greeneview will see a $271,071 reduction, or 1.98 percent of its $13.6 million annual operating budget. The district did receive around $150,000 in CARES Act funding, which will take away some of the sting.
But there are still concerns, Seevers said, because the district won’t see a huge savings for not operating school for nine weeks. In fact, Seevers said expenses have increased because the district installed 30 wireless access points so students could continue working from home.
“(And) we’re still spending money on salary and benefits, operating buildings we’re not using.”
Bellbrook will lose $659,087 or 2.2 percent of its $29.9 million annual operating budget but will receive $163,000 in CARES Act money. A property tax levy that was on the March primary unofficially failed, which brings the district’s financial future into even more doubt.
“What does this mean to the overall budget? Generally speaking, there is so much uncertainty that it makes it very difficult to predict what the future will look like,” Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad said in a letter to district families. “We’re also unsure what this may mean for next school year, but we can anticipate more cuts and reductions from the state. This reduction is hitting our district especially hard, considering our district has already implemented more than $2.3 million in budget reductions between summer 2018 and Phase I and II reductions in 2019, and the Phase III reductions starting in the 2020-21 school year. Additionally, we are already facing another nearly $2.5 million in Phase IV cuts and reductions over the next two years, depending on the official outcome of the March ballot issue.”
He added that there is a “strong possibility” that the district will have to change how it delivers education and the way it conducts business.
Xenia will lose $850,120, or 1.71 percent of its $49.5 million operating budget, the second-lowest percent in the county. Yellow Springs was cut 1.52 percent.
“Budget cuts to education almost always impact the services and resources we deliver to students on a daily basis,” said Xenia Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton. “Given the announcement from Governor DeWine this week, we will begin with modifying our existing priorities, making every effort to minimize the effect on students.”
Cedar Cliff schools were slashed $124,402, or 1.89 percent of its $6.59 million operating budget.
“We have been in unprecedented times, previously due to the health concerns of the coronavirus and now due to the financial implications associated with the crisis,” Superintendent Chad Mason said. “In terms of time, the financial implications may be longer-lasting than the amount of time the actual virus hit the state. My only hope is the governor and the legislature, after administering these massive cuts (and they are massive) to many areas of the public sector, will listen and consider decreasing the mandates on schools. My fear is we will get hit with more requirements while simultaneously greatly reducing our resources to perform those mandates. I base that belief on 25 plus years of experience in education. No one ever says, ‘Ohio is greatly reducing your budget, but you don’t have to pay college tuition for students anymore,’ it never happens. Can we at least start by being reasonable?”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.