During a May 18 special meeting, members of the Bexley Board of Education and district administrators discussed how the state's $300 million reduction in grades K-12 funding will affect public education for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and in the future.

The board also voted 5-0 to implement a hiring freeze for the 2020-21 school year.

According to data released May 6 by the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, Bexley City Schools will lose $635,141 in state funding, which represents 1.67% of the district's total operating budget. The new state funding for the district in this fiscal year will be about $4.38 million.

According to Bexley City Schools treasurer Kyle Smith's five-year forecast, which the district must file with the state by May 31, state funding represents a total of about 19% of the district's annual revenues. Property taxes make up 59%; the district income tax accounts for 20%; and other local sources of funding represent the remaining 2%, according to the forecast.

"We're a school district that relies on ourselves to fund ourselves, so luckily that's not a large portion of our budget or a large portion of our revenues," Smith said.

He said the funding cut is "significant, but comparative to our entire revenues, it's kind of in line with other districts' losses."

Smith said he projects over the course of the next five years a $3.7 million revenue loss to the district. The majority of that figure will come from a $2 million reduction in state funding, a $1.2 million reduction in the district's income tax and a reduction $344,000 in property taxes.

To prepare for a potential greater reduction in state funding in fiscal 2021, Smith, board members and Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller discussed the possibility of a $1.1 million reduction in operating expenses for the 2020-21 school year, including an $831,300 reduction in building/department operations, a $66,731 reduction in supplemental contracts, and a $203,130 reduction in staffing-related costs.

Miller said administrators and staff districtwide evaluated all operating costs and decisions were based on the strategic plan the board of education approved in 2018.

"That's why you have a plan, so it guides you in how to make decisions, not only in when times are good, but also in when times are bad," Miller said. "What are the priorities at that time, what is the most critical to achieve your mission?"

Miller said the building/department funding cuts would take the form of reducing the budget of the high school, middle school and three elementary schools by 10% per building, saving about $36,000, and shifting some building maintenance costs from the district's general fund to the permanent improvement fund, saving about $795,000.

Miller said the $66,731 savings in supplemental contracts would result from the district shifting the cost of most students' Advanced Placement tests to the students' families. Miller said the district still plans to spend about $20,000 to pay for AP tests for students who are in financial need.

The staffing-related savings of $203,130 would result from reassigning existing staff to fill four vacant teaching positions, Miller said.

Board president Marlee Snowdon said the $1.1 million in proposed cuts will be addressed in further detail at the board's next regular board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 2.

The meeting will be streamed on the district's website at bexleyschools.org.

"We'll give the guidance, the numbers, but Dr. Miller and the administration decide where those cuts go from there," Snowdon said.

The hiring-freeze resolution the board approved states the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has placed a financial hardship on the district and no additional staff will be hired for the 2020-21 school year, with the exception of a technology-integration coach position the board previously approved at a salary yet to be determined.

Smith said the five-year forecast projects a total of $42 million in district revenues for fiscal 2021 and does not include the proposed $1.1 million in spending cuts.

The forecast projects the district might need to request an 8-mill levy in 2022, to begin collection in January 2023. Voters approved the district's most recent 9-mill levy in November 2019.

"I'm getting that number by looking at our excess of expenditures over revenues," Smith said. "For (2022), it's $4.5 million in the red."

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