South Range exploring deficit avoidance options

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — During a school board meeting last week, South Range Schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham shared the options to avoid a $1.8 million deficit projected after the 2019-2020 school year.

Dunham shared two plans to address the projected deficit — one that combines a reduction of expenditures and an increase of revenue (a new money levy) and the second a straight reduction of expenditures. He emphasized they are just proposals and merely being discussed, although a plan will have to be formulated soon.

The district is projected to enter a deficit during the 2019-2020 school year, finishing the fiscal year with a deficit of $1.8 million.

Dunham noted that a lot can change during that time, but that the district has typically passed a new-money levy every eight years, with the last being in 2004 — a 5.9 mill levy that generates $793,000 annually.

Plan A

The district must start addressing the deficit now with a two-year process, Dunham said. The savings for next year will repeat in the second year, he noted.

— Reduction of $350,000 in full- and part-time certificated and administration positions and $210,000 in classified positions for next school year, contingent on the five-year financial forecast remaining as projected.

— Elimination of a bus purchase for the next two years. The district is currently on a bus replacement plan that calls for one new bus each year. One bus costs approximately $85,000.

— Reduction of $135,000 in purchased services and supplies by trimming budgets as needed.

— Removal of $235,000 from the contingency fund, cutting the money for emergencies in half.

— Reduction of select supplemental contract without eliminating extracurricular programs.

— Continuation of state-wide open enrollment.

— Placing a new-money levy on the November ballot. Dunham noted the millage will be determined by the revised five-year financial forecast in May, but said a 4.9-mill levy would generate almost $1 million while a 5.9-mill one would generate $1.1 million.

Plan B

Without seeking a new-money levy, the district will have to battle the projected deficit through primarily reductions, Dunham said.

In addition to the decrease in expenditures and continuation of state-wide open enrollment called for in Plan A, the reduction in certificated and administrative positions is increased to $640,000 and classified positions to $420,000. There will also be a reduction of $350,000 in extracurricular and co-curricular activities, with no program guaranteed not to be eliminated.

According to Dunham, 1 mill equated to $115,000 in 2004, but 1 mill now equates to $200,000.

Dunham said that the district was in fiscal precaution in 2012 and has been working on deficit reduction through the 2015-2016 school year including a reduction in force (RIF) of 17 certificated and 15 classified personnel in addition to combining certificated, classified and administrative personnel positions. Dunham also noted that open enrollment has helped stave off a deficit.

State funding cuts in addition to unfunded mandates have harmed the district, according to Dunham. School Treasurer Jim Phillips noted there has been a decrease of $173,000 this year alone in state funding and that without open enrollment the district would be in a deficit of just under $1.4 million.

The increase in expenditures the past 10 to 15 years has included implementation of all-day, everyday kindergarten; expansion of special education, extracurricular and co-curricular programs; and inclusion of unfunded mandates such as college credit plus (CCP) which will cost the district $125,000 this year.

Dunham said the school should be offering as many programs and services to students as possible, but must incur the cost associated with the programs, which can be difficult to maintain. According to an Ohio Department of Education staffing analysis, since 2012 the district has been spending below state average per student, with the difference growing larger each year.

Decreases in expenditures, in addition to increases in revenue, the past 10 to 15 years has included the implementation of state-wide open enrollment; reduction in the transportation system to single bus routes; combining staff and administrative positions; and, most significantly according to Dunham, an absolute pay freeze for all employees from 2010 through 2015.

To watch Dunham’s full presentation, visit the board of education tab on the school’s website,, and click on the recorded meetings link.