Niles schools planning cuts following state audit

By Jordan Cohen


The board of education is planning to vote April 19 on as yet undisclosed cuts in an effort to eliminate a deficit that has the district in state-declared fiscal caution, according to the board president.

The vote follows Tuesday’s release of a state performance audit, which determined the district could save nearly $3.4 million annually through 18 personnel cuts including teachers, contract restructuring and substantially reducing the district’s health and vision insurance costs. The audit states the latter would save the district nearly $2.1 million

Without the reductions, Niles Schools face a deficit exceeding $11 million by 2022, the audit states.

“Some cuts will be voted on at our April 19 meeting,” Susan Giannetti Longacre, board president, said Tuesday. Longacre declined to provide specifics about the reductions including whether those include teacher contracts that will not be renewed.

“Our goal is to get this district on solid financial footing,” she said.

The audit recommends the elimination of “10.5 ... general-education teacher positions” that would save the district $779,000. Nonteaching positions recommended for elimination include psychologist, nursing and clerical. The audit also recommends long-term financial and capital improvement planning.

Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen said in a news release that the district is already considering eliminating clerical and teaching positions “through attrition, reducing positions and movement of the workforce.

“We will thoroughly evaluate the impact reductions could have on students and services,” Thigpen states in the release, which does not mention the board vote April 19.

A message left for Richard Sprague, president of the Niles Education Association, the bargaining unit for the teachers, was not returned. Niles schools are on spring break until Monday.

According to Megan Greulich, staff attorney for the Ohio School Boards Association, a state statute sets a June 1 deadline for notification of nonrenewal of teacher contracts, but there can be exceptions.

“Collective-bargaining agreements may include provisions with different deadlines,” Greulich said.

The district is turning to the voters for help. A 10-year, 5.85 mill emergency levy that appears on the May ballot would generate $1.3 million annually. The millage is below a previous 9.25 mill levy that was rejected by 1,700 votes last November. The failed issue would have raised $2 million each year.

A public meeting to discuss the levy has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 12 at Niles Middle School. Recent figures indicated that the district must overcome a projected $340,000 deficit this fiscal year if the fiscal caution designation is to be lifted.

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