Springfield Board of Education approves drastic cuts

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent

LAKEMORE  The Springfield Local Schools Board of Education held a special meeting Dec. 1 and approved a financial recovery plan that will be presented to the Ohio Department of Education.

Springfield Spartans

With the district being in a fiscal caution status and the 7.7 mill levy being defeated twice by voters, the Board of Education needs to reduce expenses by $3 million a year.

The approved plan stated that “the loss of critical revenue has made it necessary to immediately reduce expenditures in all areas of operations. The failed levy would have begun collecting $3 million annually in 2021.

The plan begins with the reduction of 20.75 positions in the spring of 2020 and departmental budget cuts. It includes immediate staffing reductions within the next month including 3.25 custodial positions, three library, 1.5 clerical and one in transportation. Junior High athletics will be eliminated as of the spring of 2021 and pay to play will be implemented for the 2021 spring high school athletic season. Young Elementary will close at the end of the school year, which will cause grade shifts across the district. Current plans will move all students PreK-2 to Spring Hill Elementary, shift Schrop Intermediated to grades 3-5 and house grades 6-12 at the high school and junior high school.

Staff reductions for the 2021-22 school year will include 46 jobs lost. This will drastically reduce or eliminate art, music, foreign language, career technical, computer, family and consumer science and physical education classes across the district. Advanced class options will no longer be available for Springfield Students. These reductions will essentially eliminate all but the bare minimum offerings within district.

Transportation will be reduced to state minimum services beginning with the 2021-22 school year. Business Manager Dustin Boswell said the state minimum means that only grades Pre-K through eight will be transported if they live more than two miles from the school building, they are attending.

A full copy of the plan is available to the public at www.springfieldspartans.org/finance.

Board of Education member Chad Lance said he can’t understand why anyone voted against the levy.

“I bet those people had levies passed when they were in school,” said Lance. “That we are taking computer classes away in 2020 is mind boggling.”

He spoke about how difficult it was to tell his daughter, who just began to play junior high sports, that she couldn’t do it and the same with his middle son that just signed up for band and tell him he is not going to get to do that.

Superintendent Chuck Sincere gave a levy history going back to 1985. He said in his 29 years at Springfield he has been involved with 30 levy campaigns which included 48 issues. In the last 51 years, there have been 64 issues on the ballot; 41 levy campaigns of which 34 were approved and 29 failed. With renewals, voters approved 30 out of 39.

A bond issue for the new high school junior high was approved for building construction plus a 0.5-mill permanent improvement levy for maintenance of the building. Those funds cannot be used for any other operating expenses for the district.

Sincere said education has always been a part of his life.

“It is incredible when we cannot offer music, art and physical education to our children," Sincere said. "We will need to pass new money to keep operating. It is not going away. We have to get out of this mess. We count on the 12,000 voters to pull us through."

Board member Mary Lou Dodson said she hopes the community will recognize the district has been good stewards.

“I hope the community can grasp this and come out when we have to put something on the ballot," Dodson said.

The board also approved a resolution to endorse the Fair School Funding Plan that was introduced in the Ohio Senate. It is a companion bill to substitute House Bill 305 and the Senate encourage the general assembly to expedite the passage of the bill. It is based off a ruling that deemed that Ohio’s school funding system being over-reliant on local property taxes and is discriminatory to children based on where they reside as disparities exist between communities of affluence and impoverishment.

If Fair School Funding Plan is approved, Treasurer Chris Adams said it would mean potentially $2 million for the district, but it would be phased in over a 6-year period. Adams said that alone would not solve the district’s situation.

“It doesn’t help that the governor takes away money from us,” added Dodson.

Adams said he understands how difficult this is for those that are on a fixed income. He made a comparison of the cost. For a $170,000 house, it would have cost $400 a year for the 7.7 mill levy. He said he knows that can be a lot of money but, if the school system goes down to bare minimum that house value could go down 20 percent which equals $34,000. It would take 84 years to recoup that at $400 a year.

“So, when you think it is a good financial decision (not to pass the levy), it is not a good decision," Adams said. "The community has a rich history and I have a lot of family that lives here and there is a reason. I hope the taxpayers want to continue that legacy.

"We need to get through this and bring back programs that impact our children as quickly as possible. I applaud any legislator in the state of Ohio that is trying to do something for the schools," Adams added.

Board Member Neal Hess said If the approved plan is implemented the way it was passed, it is the bare minimum.

“These cuts are not into the bone, we are cutting our limbs off," He said. “We will be offering our students less than any other Summit County school and probably in the state. I am embarrassed by this as l think anyone would be."

Lance said he is asking the community what they would like to see. 

“I am completely open for suggestions," he said. "We are cutting a lot and we are forced to. We have to because we are required to balance the budget. I would like to see some new faces and fresh ideas.”

Hess said he can’t live off the salary he made 30 years ago, and neither can the schools.

Being a township, Board members say an income tax is not possible nor would it bring in enough dollars to support the schools and, in the long run, would cost residents more than a levy.

The next meeting, Dec. 15, the board will most likely begin approving personnel cuts. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. via Zoom. For public comments, register at www.springfieldspartans.org/boe-register at least 30 minutes before the meeting.

The meeting can be seen on the district YouTube channel.