TWINSBURG, Ohio (WJW) — Twinsburg Schools Superintendent Katheryn Powers said after the district presented its five-year projected budget to the state, the district knew there would be some very difficult but necessary decisions to make.
The budget projected a deficit of more than $2 million in the 2025 fiscal year.
“Public school districts in Ohio are not permitted to operate in a deficit mode and so the directive provided by the Department of Education was to create a plan to eliminate that 2.1-million-dollar reduction in fiscal year 25,” Powers said.
In a meeting on May 3, School Board President Rob Felber explained that 85% of the district’s expenses come from salaries and benefits.
“Every pair of hands we have here are important to the success of our students, but if you are going to reach the mark of $2.1 million you are ultimately going to have to look at reducing staff,” Powers told the board members.
To compensate, the board decided to cut 43 different positions. Those cuts will begin in August when the 2024 school year begins.
“That would mean 11 and a half teachers, or their full-time equivalent, will have suspended contracts as well as 14 members of our classified staff,” Powers told Fox 8 News. “The classified staff includes support staff, instructional assistants, lunchroom playground folks, lunchroom employees and individuals who support the organization behind the classrooms”.
They also include two administrative positions as well as cuts from attrition and resignations.
“There are some positions that come to be open due to retirements that we will not be filling, we have some positions that won’t be filled for individuals that just resigned and have taken employment elsewhere,” Powers said. “The hard part was how do we reduce expenditures based on what our collective bargaining agreements say about reductions in staff.”
When addressing the board on May 3, Powers said the priority was to protect the integrity of the classroom.
Board members made a point to explain that the cuts were not targeting individuals, but job descriptions, and the cuts would be made considering seniority.
In addition, the district will be increasing the pay-to-participate fee for students in athletic programs and extracurricular activities from the current 25% to 30% of the overall expense of the activity.
The district also plans to make adjustments to its bus routes to save money.
The superintendent and board president have explained to the community that the cuts are not made necessary because the district’s money has been mismanaged, but because the way the state is funding school districts has not kept up with the increased cost of running the school district.
That includes the impact of inflation and a decrease in compensation from the state because of how the district is classified.
“We have joined hundreds of districts in the fight to no avail with our state legislators and the cuts from the state keep coming,” said Felber.
While the state will not permit public school districts to operate at a deficit, it will also not allow them to rely on passing a levy to make up for a deficit.
When accepting the cuts, Felber said the board would have to go to the community to ask for additional revenue, possibly on the ballot this November, but the cuts that are being made would decrease how much more the district will need.
“In Ohio, school districts are reliant on their local taxpayers to provide additional revenue. I believe the numbers the last time I looked at them would indicate that 65% of our revenue was generated from taxpayers,” Powers said.
In a message to parents of the district, Powers asked them to communicate with lawmakers about House Bill 1 which further threatens school payments across the state.
“As we worked to develop the Expenditure Reduction Plan, state legislators crafted House Bill 1. House Bill 1, introduced by Representative Adam Mathews, would enact sweeping reforms to the state’s income tax and, to pay for that change, drastically modify Ohio’s property tax system,” Powers said in part.
During their meeting, the board promised to use their network to help contact human resources personnel and administrators in other districts to help find jobs for those who have been displaced.