Bexley school board OKs cuts in building operations, staffing costs

CHRIS BOURNEA
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ThisWeek group

The Bexley Board of Education voted 5-0 at its June 2 regular meeting to approve a resolution for cutting $1.35 million in spending for fiscal 2021, which begins July 31.

According to the resolution, the cuts must be made due to a $635,141 reduction in state funding for the current fiscal year that resulted from COVID-19 coronavirus-related revenue losses.

"The current environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has created financial hardship for the district, given the known costs of the loss of FY20 state funding and the anticipated reductions of the FY21 state funding, loss of income tax revenue, and delayed valuation of taxable properties on inside millage," the resolution states.

Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said the cuts would be an $849,400 reduction in build-ing/department operations, a $66,731 reduction in supplemental contracts and a $184,360 reduction in staffing-related costs. The $1.35 million in spending cuts includes $250,000 that the district will now save due to a grant from the Bexley Education Foundation to purchase tablet computers and other devices for each student in the district, Miller said.

"That is a partnership that we value and are so grateful to have all the time, but especially in these times," Miller said of the foundation.

Board president Marlee Snowdon said the board had asked the administration to look at every area of operations where savings could be realized while prioritizing students' academic success and retaining staff, based on the strategic plan the board approved in 2018.

"If we're allowed by the health authorities to do so, all arts, music and athletic programs will remain," Snowdon said. "The only student programming that will be paused for this coming year is the 20 minutes, three times a week that we offered Spanish for our elementary students. While I'm disappointed with that, knowing the very complex world around teacher licensure and union contracts that we have to honor and our budgetary realities, I am able to accept that for this one year."

Snowdon said the resolution states the spending cuts are only for the 2020-21 school year.

"We will revisit all of these things for our next school year," she said.

Board vice president Michelle Mineo said the board has received numerous comments from residents encouraging board members to reevaluate the salary of district administrators, but believes their salaries are commensurate with their duties.

"I think it's important to remember that our administrators do not work 8 to 5. Their job is huge," Mineo said. "I do think that we have a high-performing team and it shows in the education that our children receive."

Miller said the build-ing/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 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 staff to fill four vacant teaching positions, Miller said.

In addition to the spending cuts, the board approved a hiring freeze at a May 18 special meeting to address budget concerns.

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