Austintown schools' open enrollment resulted in 2015 loss
By Amanda Tonoli
Schools Superintendent Vince Colaluca said although he appreciates Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost’s recently released performance audit of the schools, it is merely a recommendation.
“[The audit] is just one small snapshot in time. ... There are so many good things going on in all schools in state of Ohio, and to take one small snapshot and grade us all on that just isn’t the whole picture,” said Kathy Mock, school board president.
The district could save more than $766,000 by reducing open-enrollment admission to 125 students – from 2015’s student total of 686 – and “realigning staffing to accommodate fewer students,” according to the audit.
The audit said in 2015 the 686 open-enrollment students generated $4,022,682 – $1,419 more from open-enrollment students compared with resident students. Costs, however, associated with teaching open-enrollment students totaled $4,048,334, resulting in a $25,652 net loss.
Resident students generated an average of $8,404 per student compared with $5,867 per open-enrollment students because local tax dollars do not follow the student out of the home district.
The district’s high open-enrollment count, however, is one of the reasons the district is able to continue operating in the black, Colaluca said.
“We are ahead of the game financially,” he said. “We’ve really looked at where we are at, and we actually made adjustments before the audit came out.”
Another reduction Mock said the board is unwilling to make is reducing extracurricular activities.
“Our concern remains first with our students,” she said. “We are concerned more with offering them a good, whole, academic experience and the extra opportunities those programs offer them.”
“That is not what we are about in Austintown schools,” he said. “We value educating the whole child, not just the academic component.”
Auditors also recommended the district take steps to ensure the “accuracy of its financial forecast and long-term financial planning.”
Colaluca said, however, it is unrealistic to look accurately at a five-year forecast.
“As long as we are operating in the black two years out, three years out, that’s what matters,” he said. “We work on the long term as we go.”
Mock said many of the other suggestions included in the audit already are being worked on by board members, but not everything can be changed at once.
“It’s our job to constantly better our schools,” she added.
A copy of the performance audit is available online at https://ohioauditor.gov/auditsearch/Reports/2016/Austintown_Local_School_District_16_Performance-Mahoning.pdf.