STOW – The Stow-Munroe Falls City School District implemented a plan to reduce the budget by $3.4 million and now will have to look at another reduction of $1.2 million after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $300 million cut to schools in the state.
The Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education Monday unanimously approved a resolution to terminate as a reduction in force to the personnel for the 2020-21 school year to meet new state criteria.
In January, the Department of Education requested the SMF district to have a plan submitted for reductions to address the cash shortfall of $3.4 million in the district’s five-year forecast submitted in November 2019, said Treasurer Trevor Gummere.
Five-year budget forecasts rarely have positive balances in years four and five, he said.
"It’s easier to have savings in year one for debts in year three," Gummere said. "We have negative cash in fiscal year 2022."
The state wanted to know what the district was going to do to address the shortage, Gummere said.
"We had to submit cuts to the state and meet that obligation," he said. "I’ve never had this happen before."
The Stow-Munroe Falls school district has about $62 million in expenditures in its budget but about 85 cents of every dollar goes toward staff.
"We can’t shut down a machine," Gummere said. "The cuts impact people."
Superintendent Tom Bratten recommended a reduction in positions, including three Technology Integration Specialists; one Core position at Lakeview Intermediate School; one Family Consumer Science position at Kimpton Middle School; one tutor position at Stow-Munroe Falls High School; three business positions at SMFHS; two half-time foreign language positions at SMFHS, French and Japanese; and one English-Language Arts position at SMFHS for a total of 11 positions which total $3.2 million. The remaining $200,000 will come from non-staff cuts.
Bratten said six teachers retired this year and they moved other teachers into those positions to minimize cuts to five "negatively impacted."
Bratten said he worked with unions and principals and administrators to come up with a list that could affect the least number of students and allow students the opportunity to take the course elsewhere if part of a multi-year class.
"One position is one too many," Bratten said. "We are operating on [levy] money passed in 2010-11. We’ve done a good job and made adjustments throughout the years to operate on that, and we’ve gotten no help from the state on funding to get us out of this mess, and we’ve had to keep adjusting and this is where we’ve found ourselves."
The teachers will be a on a recall list for 24 months, he said. If money becomes available, the school board would discuss it as a group and decide to call teachers back, Bratten said.
"I know it’s necessary financially, and I hope they realize they are valuable to the district and what they’ve given is huge," said board member Lisa Johnson-Bowers. "It’s a financial thing and does not reflect on them."
Bratten said the elimination of positions was strictly for financial reasons.
"We have outstanding teachers on this list that are being affected and has nothing to do with them as teachers or people," he said.
Board member Nancy Brown said the positions were eliminated, not the specific people.
"It came down to seniority and not the individual person," Brown said. "As much money as we had to cut from the budget, it’s sad to lose anyone. It feels like a sad day. How will it affect business and foreign language?"
Bratten said the district is working on plans so students who started a program can finish the program for business and language.
"It’s unfortunate we are still in this position," said board president Jason Whitacre. "If the state has to make reductions, they take that away from local government. It’s tough watching administration and teacher union leaders work so hard to find ways to work through the system that doesn’t harm the employees and looks out for the kids."
The $3.4 million is only the beginning of cuts.
"It could have been much worse," Bratten said. "With $1.2 million cut from budget with Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement last week, it could be a rough road ahead."
DeWine is cutting education by $300 million for schools K-12 across the state in the next 60 days, Gummere said.
The Stow-Munroe Falls School District normally received $13.5 million in a 12-month period in 24 payments from the state known as foundation payments. The state is cutting that amount by 9% or $1.2 million from May 1 through June 30.
"I have a five-year forecast due May 26, which will be online," Gummere said.
The virtual presentation will highlight the number reductions by the state.
To add to the financial shortages, the state is talking about cutting a minimum of 10% in fiscal 2021 or another $1.4 million from school foundation money, he said.
"These cuts by the state are destructive to the school district," Gummere said.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org