LORDSTOWN SCHOOLS Head of panel: Don't rule out personnel cuts

A performance audit of the district is expected to be released within the next few weeks.
LORDSTOWN -- The chairman of a state commission appointed to oversee school district finances believes staffing is an area that must be considered when looking to make more cuts.
"When you look at a district this size, there's not a lot of room for movement because it's not a big budget to begin with," said William Wenger, commission chairman. "One of the things that jumps out at me is staffing levels."
Salaries and fringe benefits amount to 89 percent of the school district's budget, he said. The chairman said 85 percent of a budget for salaries and fringes is considered high.
The state commission was appointed in January after state Auditor Jim Petro's office declared the district in fiscal emergency, citing a projected $1.35 million deficit.
Wenger asked Superintendent Ray Getz to provide a schedule of each class at the high school and the enrollment in that class. He said he would ask representatives from the Ohio Department of Education to develop a staffing analysis for the school district.
A performance audit by the state auditor's office also will provide guidelines for cuts to be made. Commission members have copies of the draft audit, but the document hasn't become public. Wenger expects the audit to become public within the next few weeks.
The school district has cut several staff positions, including the elementary school principal, in an effort to cut costs.
Voters rejected in May a 10.2-mill levy for the district that would have generated $1.3 million annually. The school board has discussed placing another levy on the November ballot, but the millage hasn't been determined.
Comparison: Wenger said that a comparison of like districts for the 1999 to 2000 school year showed the district has more teachers and more educational service personnel than the other districts. Like districts are those with comparable costs per pupil, valuation per pupil and the number of pupils.
The district also is above minimum standards for staffing, the commission chairman said.
"That's minimum standards," Wenger said. "Nobody is at minimum standards. You don't want to be at minimum standards."
Getz pointed out that those numbers don't take into account personnel cuts that have been made in the last several months.
Wenger said he would run the comparisons with like districts to reflect the latest reductions.
"I think staffing is an area that is going to be a major one for us," he said.
Levy: Commission members would have to approve a school board resolution to place a levy on the November ballot. The deadline to get the issue on the ballot is Aug. 23.
"Each community has to decide the level of education it wants to provide for its students," Wenger said. "If communities want to keep the level high, it's going to cost money."
In other business, a vote from commission members regarding open enrollment at the Gordon D. James Career Center wasn't required because the school board approved it Tuesday night.

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