CUYAHOGA FALLS — The Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education will discuss the recommendations from a recent performance audit at its March 20 meeting.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and will be in the Cuyahoga Falls High School library.

The Board reviewed many of the performance audit recommendations in January.

"[Superintendent] Dr. [Todd] Nichols and the administrative team are currently putting together the financial impact of a series of cost cutting recommendations and hope to have that ready for us by that meeting," Board President Karen Schofield said.

She said one topic that probably won’t be discussed is the district’s open enrollment policy.

"We have recently discussed open enrollment at both regular board meetings and Master Facility Committee meetings," Schofield said. "We have looked carefully at the impact open enrollment has on our financial situation in addition to the impact on our State Share Index. Dr. Nichols presented a comprehensive report to the board on this topic.

"At this time, this topic is not on any future meeting agenda," she continued. "In the performance audit by the State Audit Committee neither open enrollment nor closing an elementary building were recommended as cost-reduction measures. During the course of the audit, the board specifically asked the auditors about these two issues and we were told that they had looked at both and neither would be included in their recommendations."

Nichols said that he supported open enrollment "as a revenue source for the district."

"While the argument against OE is a reduction in staffing and possible consolidation of elementary schools, the district would lose the $3.4 million that is generated from transfer of $6,020 per student, and the district would likely see a reduction in State Share Index which is currently a little over 42 percent."

There had been speculation that the district might be placed under fiscal caution due to its five-year forecast; however, Nichols said that will not happen.

"We met with ODE yesterday," Nichols said. "Our status will not change in the near term."

The district, which has about 4,800 students and 570 employees, is facing a $25 million deficit by 2023.

The district has been working with state auditors since the summer on the performance audit, which compared Cuyahoga Falls to other peer districts across the state such as Plain Local, Bowling Green, Lancaster, Barberton, Tallmadge, Niles and Garfield Heights.

The performance audit says the district should consider using money from the passage of a November 2017 emergency levy to avoid a deficit. The district had earmarked the money for capital improvements, technology, curriculum, human resources and contingency planning. The five-year emergency levy is projected to raise $3.6 million annually or $18 million.

Even after reallocating the levy funds, though, the district still will face a deficit and will need to reprioritize and cut spending, the report says.

The district could save nearly $2.6 million a year by "eliminating the equivalent of 31.5 full-time staff positions, including 20 general education teachers, as well as art, music and physical education teachers," the audit says. The district has the equivalent of 250 full-time teachers, the report says.

The reductions would bring the district’s staffing in line with peer districts, the report says.

The recommendations come on the heels of the district cutting 18 teachers, raising athletic and activity fees at the middle school and high school levels, and establishing a new technology fee of $30 per student last year.

Reporter Rick Armon contributed to this story.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC