SCHOOL BUDGETS Board members looking to cut costs

The idea is to save money with as little impact as possible on education.
AUSTINTOWN -- Looking down the barrel of a projected $2 million deficit next year, school board members are exploring options to cut costs.
At a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Ohl Middle School, board members will hear presentations on open enrollment, pay to participate, rehiring retirees and transportation.
Brad Gessner, board president, said board members want to save money in ways that will have the least impact on pupils' education.
At a meeting last month, the school board eliminated 10 teaching positions to save about $650,000.
A deficit was projected for this year, but the district staved it off with cuts, including changes in employee health care and the decision not to hire an assistant superintendent.
"We've just become more efficient in the way we do things," Gessner said.
Money woes
He pointed to cuts in state and federal funding, a school funding system that's been ruled unconstitutional and reductions in personal property taxes as reasons for the district's money woes.
In 2002, the board was required to pay a $1.2 million refund in personal property tax to Phar-Mor when the state board of tax appeals reduced the taxable value of personal property kept at the former Tamco Distribution Center in 1994 and 1995. Phar-Mor owned the distribution center.
Although some new businesses have moved into the township, those have usually been granted tax abatements and the school district won't initially reap the property tax benefits.
The Ohio School Boards Association will give a presentation on rehiring retired teachers and administrators. Some districts hire retired staff at an entry level salary and then save on the employee's benefit package.
Richard Buchenic, Hubbard superintendent and former Lowellville superintendent, will review the good and bad of open enrollment with board members.
Many districts across the state have opted for open enrollment as a way to attract more students and more state funding. The state funding follows a student from one school district to another.
Pay to participate, a policy where pupils pay a fee to participate in extracurricular activities from sports to band and drama, also will be reviewed.
Gessner said a representative from the Ohio Department of Transportation will review the district's transportation plan to determine if transportation funding could be more effectively used.
"All of these alternatives have pros and cons," the board president said.

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