3 Trumbull school districts weighing cost-sharing
By Samantha Phillips
A feasibility study by state Auditor Dave Yost’s office could help three local school districts determine if sharing resources would be cost-effective.
The Liberty, Mathews and Brookfield school boards must pass a resolution before the auditor’s office can conduct the study, which Liberty’s board has done.
Based on recommendations by the state auditor’s office, the districts have the option to implement a plan to share services including transportation, administrative staffing and food services.
“We should be working together to help children,” said Joseph Nohra, Liberty superintendent.
Combining resources could save the taxpayers money and allow more funds to be allocated for curriculum improvements, he added.
“We don’t have massive carryover like some districts do. The last thing we want to do is come to taxpayers for more money,” Nohra said.
Calvin Jones, Liberty school board president, said he looks forward to the auditor’s recommendations and finding how they will fit into a strategic plan.
The feasibility study had its pilot test last year, when the state auditor’s office did a seven-month study to find out if schools in Belmont County could save money on transportation maintenance.
“I think it’s really a win for everyone involved: the taxpayers, the entities and whoever is getting the service,” said Scott Anderson, director of the Ohio Performance Team with the auditor’s office.
Once the plan is finalized, the Ohio Performance Team with the auditor’s office will determine the scope of its study, then figure out how and the amount of money school districts could save through collaboration.
“The stakeholders can stand to save money and to cut redundant costs between the districts,” Anderson said.
Tarin Brown, Mathews school board president, and incoming Superintendent Russell McQuaide emphasize they are excited about potential opportunities to share services, but aren’t interested in school district consolidation.
They want the community to maintain its identity and avoid having students travel more for their education.
“Our board would agree with the fact we aren’t going to share buildings with other districts. Our community wouldn’t go for it either,” Brown said.
Finding cost-efficient ways to share resources is the goal of the auditor’s study, but McQuaide said the focus is on what’s best for the students. For example, the study may promote sharing administrators to save money but that might not serve the students.
“The whole idea of the study from our point of view is to see if there is anything with operations we could improve with a shared service,” McQuaide said.
Trumbull County school districts already benefit from sharing some services through the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
“We form partnerships to assist the districts to make best use of their limited resources,” said TCESC Superintendent Michael Hanshaw.
For example, the service center provides staff for countywide special education programs that are housed in districts including Liberty.
“Every district is looking at their budget and they are losing money from the state. Everyone is looking for ways that we can better serve the needs of our children in Trumbull County,” Hanshaw said.
Brookfield Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor was not available to comment.