A performance audit of the Woodridge Local School District outlines $2.2 million in potential cost savings per year, but many of the recommendations would adversely affect student programs, said Superintendent Walter Davis.
Around $850,000 of the $2.2 million would come from the elimination of 10.5 full-time equivalent staff positions, while another $1 million would come from renegotiating health insurance terms in a collective bargaining agreement that expires in July. About $228,000 more would come by cutting the general fund subsidy of extracurricular programs — which could mean the institution of pay-to-participate fees. Another $168,000 could come from "right sizing" the bus fleet by cutting up to 10 routes.
"During the levy campaign, the board of education identified programming that would be eliminated should the levy have failed," Davis said in a statement announcing the audit’s release. "Now, with passage of the issue, we are committed to maintaining the student-centered programming our community has come to expect."
Davis said the audit was ordered by the state following the district’s failure to pass operating levies in November 2017 and May 2018. Since then, district voters approved a 8.19 mill operating levy that will bring $4 million per year.
"Many of the staffing recommendations outlined by the audit would negatively impact programming that the levy was designed to protect. As such, the board will consider those recommendations that will increase efficiencies without impacting students directly," Davis said.
To conduct the study, auditors selected 10 "Primary Peer" school districts from around the state with which to compare district-wide factors such as per-pupil spending and academic performance. Four "Local Peer" districts were selected to evaluate compensation, benefits and bargaining agreements, and five "Transportation Peers," were selected to evaluate the district’s transportation program. Auditors also considered other factors including state law and industry standard practices.
Administrative staff cuts recommended include the full-time equivalents of one building administrator position, a half-time central office administrator and two full-time central office clerical positions. Other full-time equivalent cuts would include 1.5 career-technical teacher positions, 1.5 physical education teacher positions, 1.5 counselor positions, one general education teacher position, a half time K-8 art education teacher and one full-time monitor position.
Local peer school districts, including Copley-Fairlawn, Norton, Revere and Streetsboro were used to compare the district’s general fund subsidy of extracurricular activity costs. The audit found the district last year paid $377 per pupil, versus $261 on average for the local peer districts.
To bring the district in line with local peer schools, auditors recommend Woodridge consider implementing pay-to-participate fees for sports, increasing admissions and sales, increase booster club funding, reduce the supplemental salary schedule or eliminate programs.
According to the report, district health and dental insurance costs are "significantly higher" than the average of other self-insured school districts in northeast Ohio, as reported by the State Employment Relations Board. Vision insurance costs were said to be "higher."
Combined savings by bringing the district’s costs in line with other self-funded school districts would be just over $1 million per year.
The audit states, "It should be noted that any changes to the employer/employee cost share are subject to negotiation, and would not be implementable" until after July 31, when the district’s collective bargaining agreement with staff expires.
In examining transportation costs, the audit recommends cutting five routes from each of the district’s two tiers of routes: Tier I, which includes 18 routes transporting 493 peak middle and high school students; and Tier II, which includes 19 routes transporting 625 peak elementary students.
"Eliminating five routes on each tier would allow the District to eliminate five buses which could save an average of $164,200 in salaries and benefits in each year of implementation over the forecasted period," the audit states.
Davis pointed out the performance audit states it is a "menu of options for the district to consider" and that "The district’s board of education and administration are in the best position to determine what services are required to meet the community’s needs."
Davis noted the district is implementing some recommendations that do not involve cost savings, such as improving its strategic plan to incorporate a long-term financial plan.
"As part of its strategic plan, it should create a capital improvement plan for all capital assets," the audit stated.
Other recommendations include formalizing a preventative maintenance program, developing a bus replacement plan.
Davis said the district also is looking at changing its health care consortia and network affiliation to reduce health care costs.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or firstname.lastname@example.org.