Struthers schools look to curb negative spending by 2020
By Graig Graziosi
The Struthers City Schools’ five-year budget forecast suggests the district will continue negative spending well into the 2020s, but the board of education has plans to correct the course.
According to the forecast, the district began outspending its revenue last year by $142,103. This year, the district’s negative spending is forecast to be $1,490,323.
The district’s budget this year is $20,341,843.
Brian Rella, the district’s treasurer, said the board of education has identified a number of ways to tighten spending in the schools.
“Our biggest expenditure every year is in personnel. It goes up every year due to step increases and increased wages and benefits,” Rella said. “We’re not considering eliminating staff, but if enrollment doesn’t increase, we’ll likely refrain from refilling teaching positions once teachers retire.”
Rella also said class sizes may increase, but he stressed that the changes would not negatively impact students’ learning experiences.
“We hired around 18 new staff members under the last superintendent, so we have some room to trim without it impacting our students,” Rella said.
Rella said the district’s financial state isn’t as bleak as the forecast suggests.
“This is a similar story in many school districts. You have to be conservative when putting together a forecast,” Rella said. “For example, I can’t add any grant money the school receives to the forecast because – regardless of how high the likelihood is that we’ll receive the grants – it’s not guaranteed. In other areas there are potential changes in funding that I can’t account for, like state funds.”
Rella said that while public-school funding has been tight under the administration of Gov. John Kasich, a change in leadership at the statehouse could mean a change in incoming funding.
“It’s tough to forecast a budget out five years because so much can change year to year,” he said.
Also included in the budget is a $1 million expenditure for new turf at the football field and a new track around the field, which would allow the district’s track teams to host meets at home rather than renting out track space elsewhere. The money could also be used to build a new baseball or soccer field.
Rella said that the district is seeking donations and grants to help reduce the cost of the facility upgrades.
“We’re hoping the million isn’t going to be a million,” he said. “We think the students deserve to have home track meets and soccer games and they should have space they can use if they want to host a musical event. We want to be able to compete with other districts regarding our facilities.”
Rella said he hopes the board’s efforts to curb spending will have the district’s finances on track by 2020.