BLANCHESTER — Unfortunate measures are needed for Blanchester schools.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dean Lynch announced that, due to current financial conditions, the district has “no choice” but to enact cost reductions.
Lynch cited three specific reasons: The projected budget deficit at the end of the 2022 fiscal year; the failure of the 1% income tax levy that appeared on the November 2019 ballot; and, Lynch cited a mandate by the Ohio Department of Education for “the school district to develop a plan to address its deficit in the fiscal year 2022.”
“Therefore, I plan on recommending to the board of education necessary staff reductions for the 2020-21 school year at our March meeting totaling $1.1 million,” said Lynch.
He advised the reductions take four things into considerations: Recommendations from district supervisors and building principals in their respective areas; students’ needs based on various grade-level enrollment, subjects, accreditation requirements, and minimum program requirements for continued state funding; available funds to implement education programs and services for the district; and, the curriculum offerings needed in light of these factors and the number of positions required to operate a revised education program.
Lynch told the News Journal he has an idea as to what will be reduced, but moves won’t be announced until the March 16 meeting.
As to how the district got into this financial situation, the answer is simple, according to Lynch — lack of revenue and an increase in expenditures.
“Two years ago the district lost federal funds used to pay insurance premiums for some of our employees,” said Lynch.
The district has seen a decrease in state funding over the last three years, and the current two-year budget gives the district no additional revenue, according to Lynch.
“That is five years straight of no additional revenue to keep up with costs to operate a school district,” he said.
Regarding expenditures, he said the district’s second-largest one is employee retirement/insurance benefits.
“This past year the district’s insurance cost was 12 percent more than what we were told to calculate for our forecast,” he said.
Employee salaries were the district’s highest expenditures, and although they receive an estimated 2.5 percent annual increase, the salaries were still slightly below that of similar districts in the state, according to Lynch.
He hopes the reductions will sustain the district through 2024. But if they continue with the same revenue income, reducing expenditures won’t be enough to address future financial problems.
He told the News Journal that they would need help from the community to operate the schools, citing Wayne and Marion Townships to help replace the lack of state and federal government revenue.
“We cannot cut another million dollars from the budget without altering educational programs and services we offer to students. Therefore, a future levy is imminent,” he said.
Despite the issue, he encourages locals not to feel discouraged, because other districts in Ohio are facing similar problems, and this will one day pass.
“Together, we, like the previous stakeholders in the community did over the years, will continue to support our local schools,” said Lynch. “It’s going to take some time, hard work and some genuine conversations with our community to get to where we need to be as a district.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574