AUSTINTOWN Schools chief will resign
The board cut $356,000 from this year's budget and expects to get several state grants.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- A decade of dealing with uncertainty in school funding has taken its toll on Superintendent Richard Denamen.
"The 10 years I've spent in this position are the longest I've spent in any position in my career," he said.
On Monday, Denamen announced he was resigning as Austintown's superintendent effective Aug. 1. He cited the district's constant struggle for funding as part of the reason.
"Unfortunately, I had a delusion 10 years ago, which is when the DeRolph case started, that the school funding problem would be resolved," he said. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled several times in the DeRolph case that the state's reliance on property taxes to fund public education is unconstitutional.
Denamen will be replaced by Assistant Superintendent Stanley Watson, who will take over a district with a cloudy financial future. District Treasurer Barbara Kliner has estimated that without additional revenue, the district will be in debt by $3.1 million at the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
Levy issue likely
Board President Dr. David Ritchie has said the board will most likely ask voters to approve a new operating levy before the end of this year to increase revenue for next year.
Kliner noted that the district probably won't go into debt at the end of this school year. The board had been concerned that there would be a deficit because of an unexpected $1.2 million loss stemming from a personal property tax refund paid to Phar-Mor.
The board also had to deal with a recent decrease in the assessed value of personal property in the district that resulted in the district's losing $320,000 in tax revenue.
On Monday, the board voted to cut this year's budget by $356,399 to help cover the losses. Supplies and materials were cut by $102,399. That means the schools most likely won't be buying new computers this year, Kliner said. The district also doesn't plan to start any new capital improvement projects this year, she said.
"This far into the school year, we're not hurting the educational programs too much," she said.
State grants expected
The board also expects to get a $320,000 state grant to cover the loss stemming from the decrease in the assessed value of personal property. In addition, the board expects to receive an additional $400,000 from the state before the end of this year to pay for some of the refund to Phar-Mor, Kliner said.
Kliner noted that the board has applied for a second $320,000 state grant. That grant, however, won't be available until next year, she said.
Watson told the board that to save money, it shouldn't hire a new assistant superintendent to replace him. He makes $79,792 a year.
The board hasn't determined what it will pay Watson as superintendent.
Denamen makes about $86,238 a year. He added that the single-bypass heart surgery he underwent in December had nothing to do with his decision to resign.
He said he hasn't made plans for after his resignation.