Between 50 and 60 teachers, wearing light blue SWEA (South-Western Education Association) T-shirts attended at the Oct. 25 South-Western City Schools board meeting.

Between 50 and 60 teachers, wearing light blue SWEA (South-Western Education Association) T-shirts attended at the Oct. 25 South-Western City Schools board meeting.

Union negotiations with SWEA and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees local are in mediation. The contracts expired June 30.

The district last summer won some concessions from the union representing administrators. That new contract calls for no base salary increase over the one-year contract and also has the district's 95 administrators paying toward health care. Step increases were retained.

Also during the meeting, the school board approved a five-year financial forecast that includes no base staff salary increases for fiscal year 2011.

SWEA President Rolla Beach said during a break in the meeting the turnout by teachers was to show the board that teachers care about their union, the schools, the students and the community.

It also shows, he said, concern about the slow bargaining process.

"There's a growing amount of concern among the members. ... We certainly hope to see progress in negotiations," he said.

While neither Beach nor superintendent Bill Wise would comment on sticking points in the contract talks, Wise said the last meeting on Oct. 19 was not very productive.

"We will look forward to the next (negotiation) opportunity," he said regarding both SWEA and the OAPSE union that represents classified workers.

Mediators in both of those talks set when negotiation sessions are held, Wise said.

Fiscal year 2014 would be the last year South-Western City Schools would have a cash carry-over, an estimated $4.7-million, unless new money is found, the district's five-year financial forecast projects.

Treasurer Hugh Garside calculated the forecast, which was unanimously approved by the school board at its Oct. 25 meeting, based on a number of factors. Those include a 10 percent cut in state funds (an estimated $9-million in fiscal year 2012) and base staff salary increases of 2 percent a year each fiscal year from 2012 through 2015. Those increases would raise expenditures in the district from $5-million to $6-million a year.

Garside also told the board that full collection of the 7.4-mill operating levy, approved in November 2009, begins next year and will bring in an estimated $18.5-million annually.

"What I am happy to say, even with changes seen in state funding, we are able to keep our promise to the community and stay off the ballot through fiscal 2013," Garside said.

He said after the meeting it's likely the district would seek an operating levy in November 2013.

A major concern is state funding cuts, Garside said during the meeting. The district currently receives just under $90-million a year from the state. Because of a projected $8-billion deficit in the state's new two-year budget next year, school districts are bracing for significant cutbacks. Most districts anticipate up to 10 percent in cuts, Garside said, although some have projected as high as 30 percent. It's also possible smaller cuts would be made.

"Anything less than the 10 percent projected would be helpful," he said. "I'm not optimistic about the state budget."

Board members asked few questions about the forecast, which Garside said is only a planning tool.

Projections for fiscal 2011 show total revenue of nearly $210-million and total expenditures of nearly $198-million. Fiscal year 2012 would start with a cash carryover of about $43-million, according to the forecast. Without new money, expenditures would outstrip revenue by just over $52-million by fiscal year 2015, the forecast shows.

Wise told the board district officials will come back to the board if necessary to adjust the financial forecast.

Also at the meeting, the board was told that an estimated $5-million would be spent on permanent improvements to schools and on other needs, such as asphalt repairs, during the next five years. That amounts to about $1-million a year taken from the district's permanent improvement levy.

Another $5.8-million in necessary work also is needed during that time, but would have to be funded through another source, such as the general fund, Wise and other school officials told the board. The money for permanent improvements is separate from the $6.5-million in unvoted bonds that South-Western hopes to be approved by the state to use for energy-conservation efforts in the district.