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Springfield Board of Education questions state funding cuts, announces major staff reductions during somber special meeting

Staff Writer
The Suburbanite
The Suburbanite

SPRINGFIELD TWP. During a special Springfield Local Schools Board of Education on May 26, members of the board approved personnel items that included a reduction in force.

The reduction in force was a necessity due to the loss of state funding.

Treasurer Chris Adams, while reporting on the five-year forecast, said people want to know what happened.

“We are on the downside of the natural curve for levies,” Adams said “It has been 20 years and we needed new money this year. COVID-19 has been devastating.”

The district lost $477,000 in state funding due to a drastic cut in the state education budget because of the pandemic. Adams said on top of $477,000 reduction from the state this year, he expects less state funding next year as well. Plus, Adams believes the pandemic is going to take a toll on property owners’ ability to pay their taxes.

“I anticipate there will be people that won’t be able to pay their house payments therefore we won’t collect real estate taxes,” Adams said.

He continued to say that the district will get by this year “by the skin of our teeth,” adding tha next year will be tough.

Even with the levy and the cuts made, he said the district is still short on funds.

“It will probably draw attention from the Department of Education,” Adams said. “My hope and prayers are that there is some stimulus money being discussed in Washington, D.C. It is the typical scenario the Democrats and Republicans are going to battle it out in the media and hopefully they each get a little bit of what they want but, more importantly is that the state and local governments are going to need help.”

Adams reiterated that this is not just an issue that is affecting Springfield. He said cash reserves are running out for districts across the state and many are “are at the cliff and they are going to get pushed off it.”

“We will probably never see another situation like this and, unfortunately, education is at the forefront,” Adams said.

Adams said there also are so many unknowns, such as will students come back into the buildings next year and how many more cuts will there be next year.

“That is what keeps me up at nights,” he said. “If we took a half a million in cuts for these two months, I can’t imagine what it will be for next year if this virus continues, and it will.”

He asked for everyone to do as Board member Neal Hess asked and contact state and national legislators.

“There is no reason why public education took a $300 million cut on a $700 million reduction,” Adams said. “We got hammered and we are going to get hammered again.”

Board President Dave Hofer choked up as he read the list of positions being eliminated and the names of those that would be riffed. He said he understands what it does to a person and their family as he has been through it.

The reduction of positions effective the 2020-21 school year included a fulltime high school and junior high tutor (in school suspension); two fulltime high school and junior high math teachers; a fulltime high school and junior high English language arts teacher; a 75 percent high school and junior high vocal music teacher; a fulltime Schrop Intermediate 5th grade teacher; a full time Young Elementary kindergarten teacher; a full time Spring Hill Elementary kindergarten teacher; three fulltime high school junior high physical education and health teachers; a fulltime elementary art teacher; a fulltime intermediate art teacher; and a fulltime high school/junior high assistant principal.

Those released from employment due to reduction in force were Natalie Brasiel, Danielle Donelan, Miranda Smith, Rebecca Sabree, Kimberly Whitmire, Magdalena Zook, Jessica Casher, Lindsay Ibos, Raymond (Doug) Jones, Lisa Villers and Matt O'Brian.

If a 7.7-mill levy that is on the Aug 4 ballot passes, Casher, Ibos, Jones, Villers and O’Brian will be reinstated. Also passed was the reassignment of Principal Jeff Miller as a classroom teacher.

During the meeting, Hofer said that working with the Springfield Local Association of Classroom Teachers (SLACT) could have been better.

“It is not setting a good tone,” Hofer said. “You put us up against a wall with a June 1 agreement. We have to balance the books by the law. After taxes, I will donate back my board pay.”

Long time Board Member Mary Lou Dodson said in the 40 years she has been on the board, she has not had to make such horrific decisions.

“It doesn’t reduce the pain, but I am hopeful that several of these teachers will be back in the classroom,” she said.

Superintendent Chuck Sincere said there is hope that students will be back in school buildings this fall, but there is a lot of uncertainty. He said the district wants to call back some of the teachers.

“As the way it is now, we have to go through the process as we plan for the worse and hope for the best,” Sincere said.

Board Member Chad Lance said he has been asked why the board is not putting this decision off to see what is done. He said legally it couldn’t due to a June 1 deadline. The board requested to extend that deadline, but it was not granted.

“So, to answer the texts and emails, we can’t,” Lance said. “This is not why I put my application in last fall to be a part of the board. This is tough and we are doing what we can. The decisions have to be made now. We will come out stronger on the other side, I do believe that.”

Dodson asked Adams whether there was a rainy-day fund in the state.

Adams replied that there was.

“Yes and the balance is $2.7 billion, and they (state officials) didn’t touch it,” Adams said.

Hess said it wasn’t just public schools, higher education also took a massive hit.

“It was almost like an anti-education funding cut,” Hess said. “We are not investing in the next generation and that is frustrating that our representatives don’t see that and can’t get it.”

Based on the five-year forecast, if the August levy doesn’t pass the district would be in a $2 million hole deficit. Adams said if that plays out, the district will look much more different than what it looks like now following the reductions.

“It is not something we even want to consider but it is dependent on what the state does for us,” Adams said. “We encourage everyone to write to the state and to pass the August levy,”

If the levy passes, Adams warned it will be tight next year because the district will only collect a half year of the levy money, or $1.5 million. The following year, it would collect $3 million.

“In two or three years we would be in a better situation that we are now,” he said. “That is why the forecast improves as the years go on. That is all dependent on the levy. If it does not pass and the state continues to make cuts, this decision we made today, is nothing compared to what we will have to do in the future.”

The board urged residents to go to the contact page on the website of Ohio Rep. Anthony DeVitis, Ohio Sen. Vernon Sykes and Gov. Mike DeWine to email thoughts to them. Hess said he invited DeVitis to one of the board meetings.

“I feel strongly they should be able to explain what they are doing and why,” he said. “We put the levy off to the last possible moment. It has been 20 years. We don’t want to burden the taxpayers any more than we have to.”

The board approved the five-year forecast. Adams said he is sure he will need to revise it several times as things change with budget cuts and COVID-19 pandemic.

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m., June 16. Comments are welcome and must be emailed to comments@springfieldspartans.org by 5 p.m. on the day of the meeting (must include name and address).