Salem schools forecast in black for 4 years

SALEM — By paying attention to what’s spent for purchased services and supplies, the Salem school district should be good for the foreseeable future, Treasurer Michael Douglas said.

Douglas reviewed the new five-year financial forecast with school board members during their meeting Monday night, projecting a positive cash balance the first four years before hitting a negative balance in 2022.

“I think we’re staying within our limits,” he said.

School districts in Ohio are required to submit a five-year forecast to the state every October and then revise the report every May. The reports are meant to help districts financially manage their resources, assist in planning and give insight into the financial future. The numbers are based on current revenue and expenditures and projections out to five years.

With the state budget covering two years and changes sometimes dependent on who’s in office, he said it’s harder to predict the final few years for a forecast when it comes to state funding. He pointed out that one of the areas where the district has more control when it comes to spending is the purchased services and supplies, which consists of utilities, special education services from the Educational Service Center, open enrollment, community/cyber schools deduction, professional services, property/fleet insurance and supply costs.

He also noted the district is staying within the 70 to 75 percent range in the budget for employee costs for salaries and benefits.

The forecast only takes into account the general fund, not permanent improvement funds or grant-funded programming. Douglas said any cash should be there to stabilize the district and not be used for expenditures or services. Historically, just looking at revenue and expenses for each year, the district shows a deficit for the final four years of the forecast, but when taking into account the cash balance, the bottom lines stays positive through 2021 before turning red in 2022. That’s also assuming levies are renewed and costs for health insurance and wages will increase.

The report shows the following numbers for the bottom line each year: $3,505,745 in 2018; $2,983,824 in 2019; $2,089,689 in 2020; $59,475 in 2021; and negative $3,034,212 in 2022. The board approved the report as presented.

In other business, Reilly Elementary School principal Cindy Viscounte reported on implementation of the Leveled Literacy Intervention program in the third and fourth grades which are housed at Reilly, meant to help at-risk students and students in special education to improve reading skills and levels.

The program by two leading researchers in literary education was first implemented last year at Buckeye Elementary, which houses kindergarten, first and second grades, to help at-risk students. Now it’s been opened up to special education students, too, besides being used at Reilly.

Viscounte explained the point of the program is to expand the vocabulary of students and increase the volume of what they read besides increasing their comprehension or understanding of what they’re reading. The books used in the program are designed to impact their knowledge so they’re learning through the content.

Once their reading level is determined, they’re grouped with similarly-skilled students for 30 minutes of intensive instruction. In determining their reading level, teachers look at miscues and mistakes being made for patterns. She said if they see the kind of mistakes being made, such as dropping words, they can better remedy a situation. They’re also constantly monitoring their growth.

Reilly has 112 students in Leveled Literacy Intervention, with 58 in third grade and 54 in fourth grade.

During his report, Superintendent Dr. Joe Shivers talked about recent home visits conducted at all grade levels as part of professional development for teachers. Teachers and administrators visited 172 homes and the response was positive. He said the program actually started 12 to 13 years ago at the junior high and high school level and in recent years they’ve expanded to the elementary level.

He didn’t have a figure for how many students were visited since more than one student may have lived at some of the homes visited. The goal is to have each student visited at least once before they graduate.

Board member Doug Moffett reported on a recent curriculum committee meeting which included discussion about the return of Family & Consumer Sciences to the junior high and the need for an advisory board for the machine shop program. Board member Howard Rohleder talked briefly about the audit & finance committee, which included a review of the five-year forecast and the permanent improvement budget and spending.

In the consent agenda, the board approved first and second readings on revisions to board policies, administrative guidelines and forms, approved use of the high school and Southeast school as polling places for the Nov. 7 election, approved certified and classified substitutes, fall game workers, volleyball and soccer tournament workers, approved George Spack as a volunteer for boys basketball and Sierra Day and Mike Swinehart as volunteers for girls basketball, moved Jeff Andres from ninth grade boys head coach to junior varsity boys head basketball coach and hired Calvin Sell as a high school custodian.

The board also approved the high school choirs trip to Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 14-18 and the high school girls softball trip to the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. from March 31 to April 4.

The cafeteria supervisor treated the board to banana split sundae cups, which the students are receiving as the dessert of the month.