State auditor recommends Poland cut staff, close buildings to stave off deficit


By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

POLAND

The state auditor recommends Poland Local Schools eliminate the equivalent of 18.5 full-time positions and close two elementary school buildings to stave off a looming deficit.

Those recommendations – closing Dobbins and Union; housing kindergarten through third-grade at McKinley; and housing fourth- through eighth-grade at the middle school – are included in a report released Tuesday by state Auditor Dave Yost.

The report follows a several-months-long performance audit of the district. If the district implements the complete set of recommendations, the auditor estimates a cost savings of approximately $1.6 million.

The audit was conducted after a five-year forecast projected the district would have a deficit of more than $4.8 million in fiscal year 2022, according to the auditor’s office.

“Financial difficulties put school district leaders to the test,” Yost said in a statement. “Tough choices are never pleasant and often are unpopular, but they have to be made for the long-term health of the district.”

Whether the district will follow the recommendations is yet to be determined.

“I think right now, the board is going to need some time to evaluate. It’s a little too early to say,” Superintendent David Janofa said.

The audit reviewed and analyzed the district’s financial management, human resources, facilities, transportation and food services. The district is not obligated to adopt the auditor’s recommendations, but a news release from the district notes “implementation of recommendations in the audit are actions to avoid a formal designation by the Auditor of State and the Ohio Department of Education” such as fiscal caution, watch, or emergency.

The report recommends the district consider closing two elementary buildings and estimates the associated savings would equal $1,026,700.

The audit concluded the district’s buildings “are significantly underutilized, signifying the operation of more facility space than necessary to meet student classroom demand.

“This inefficient use of space results in the district allocating a greater level of spending for facilities operation and maintenance relative to its student population.”

Another recommendation is to eliminate 2.5 full-time building administrator positions, at an estimated savings of $304,700.

The auditor recommends eliminating 3.5 full-time general education teaching positions to save $233,700.

Numerous other positions are recommended for elimination, including a counseling job, two library staff positions, 5.5 custodial positions, and others.

One of the recommendations, at an estimated cost savings of $52,200, is to reduce extracurricular activity subsidies. The audit found the district spends 14.9 percent more per pupil than comparable districts on extracurricular activities, and 14.1 percent more than comparable local districts. The report suggests the district look at increasing sports fees, eliminating programs, reducing supplemental salaries and other steps.

The report notes that implementation of the recommendations could allow the district to avoid any year-end deficits for the next several years.

In analyzing the district’s May 2017 five-year forecast, the report attributes the district’s projected deficit to “steadily increasing expenditures couple[d] with a severe decline in revenues.”

The auditor notes some improvements reflected in the most-recent five-year forecast in October. The report attributes the improved financial outlook to the replacement of two principals, reduction in staff through attrition, and an anticipated cut in state funding that did not end up happening.

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