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MAHONING VALLEY SCHOOLS Districts fear impact of budget cuts



Published: Sat, March 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



For many districts, funding cuts will push them further into the red.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Reductions in state funding that will trim 1.6 percent of per-pupil expenditures are bad news for Ohio schools -- very bad news for some, such as Poland, that will be forced into a deficit.

"We're one of 109 of Ohio's 612 districts that couldn't finish [the school year] in the black," said Robert Zorn, superintendent of Poland schools.

Voters twice turned down school levies that would have generated $1.3 million in operating funds, he said, and the state cut $286,000 from the district in October. With the reduction of $125,406, Zorn said, "we're looking at half a million dollars in losses."

The situation is similar at Niles city schools.

"We're already in debt, and the proposed reduction means further cuts," said Superintendent Patrick N. Guliano.

Niles receives almost 60 percent of its funding from the state, Guliano said, "so we're more dependent on state funds than other districts."

Niles schools will lose more than $152,000, so there will be budget cuts for next school year, and they will probably be across the board, Guliano added.

A tough hit

Betty English, superintendent of Warren city schools, described the cut of more than $342,000 to her district as devastating.

Making cuts to offset the loss "is going to be very difficult -- everything is up for reduction," she said.

The school board was expected to meet this morning to discuss reductions in the district's budget.

"Legislators really need to look at what they are doing to education," English said. "Reductions in the middle of the school year have a tremendous impact on the programs and on children."

Fifty-seven percent of funding for Warren schools, where more than 6,900 pupils are enrolled, comes from the state.

Better off

Boardman, West Branch and Salem schools won't be as hard-hit.

"We're not heavily reliant on state aid -- we're 70 percent locally funded," said Rich Santilli, superintendent of Boardman schools.

Boardman will lose a little more than $147,000. To compensate for the loss, Santilli said, "We've been holding off on buying new buses and may not get them until next year."

Boardman schools will finish in the black with or without the reduction, he said.

Louis Ramunno, superintendent of West Branch schools, said his district is also holding off on buying buses. West Branch had planned to buy three new buses this year, he said, "but we're going to re-evaluate how to finish this year."

The purchase of new textbooks and supplies has also been slowed, and the school board will consider curbing some field trips planned for next year, Ramunno said.

Not 'perks'

In Salem, Superintendent David Brobeck said cutting programs and services to children this year would be premature.

"We don't think the programs we have are perks," he explained, saying they are all vital to the education of Salem schoolchildren.

For example, Brobeck said the district's all-day kindergarten program is not an extra, but a vital component in preparing young children for success in elementary school.

The district, however, will consider freezing the introduction of new programs and may "look at attrition," he said.

"We are very cognizant that this is a political game right now," Brobeck added. "The sad thing is that children have become a pawn in this game."

kubik@vindy.com




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