$1.6 million cuts help balance Pickerington Schools budget

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Approximately $1.6 million in Pickerington Schools spending cuts approved last month will help the district balance its budget but also will affect supplies, equipment and employment hours for some staff.

The cuts include partial hours reductions for support staff, media specialists and food-services workers.

On Aug. 10, the school board unanimously approved nearly $1.2 million in general-fund budget reductions to counter a 3.2% decrease in state funding brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The move reduced the district's 2020-21 anticipated spending from $133.4 million in its general fund to $132.4 million.

"Like many other governmental entities and private businesses, Pickerington Schools continues to grapple with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ryan Jenkins, district treasurer. "In May of 2020, the governor cut Pickerington Schools' state funding by about 3.2%. Additionally, the district is aware that real estate and income-tax collections will almost certainly be impacted by the economic downturn."

Jenkins said "sound resource management" over recent years has allowed the district to build "needed reserves to help us weather financial storms," but cuts were necessary to "continue to responsibly manage those resources."

"These reductions are needed to help the district sustain its financial reserves so that we can adequately serve our students and our community in the future," he said. "While the reductions are not what we wanted, we believe that this is a prudent and fiscally responsible decision."

Purchased services

The cuts approved by the board included total reductions of about $920,000 to "purchased services."

According to Jenkins, those services include payments to outside entities that provide contracted services to the district such as for utilities, student transportation, College Credit Plus tuition and legal fees and other professional services, as well as for repairs and maintenance.

Supplies

Another area of reductions came by way of $193,000 in cuts for "supplies."

According to Jenkins, these included spending reductions for "items needed to operate the school district on a daily basis," such as fuel for vehicles and buses, maintenance and custodial supplies and repair parts and instructional materials, including textbooks and electronic subscriptions.

Equipment

According to Jenkins, about $73,000 in cuts were made for equipment.

This included "items needed to operate the school district on a daily basis, but more 'permanent' in nature or capitalized as assets."

Examples, he said, included internet servers and computers, as well as buses and district vehicles.

Staffing

The cuts that were approved Aug. 10 resulted in a budget reduction of approximately $1.2 million and, at that time, led Superintendent Chris Briggs to state, "Thankfully, we have not had to reduce staff at this time."

"While we are confident that we will continue to serve our students with robust programming while in a hybrid or virtual model, we are diligently monitoring our operations and know that reductions in staffing will most likely be needed the longer we are unable to operate via daily face-to-face instruction."

Briggs said district operations are built "for in-person instruction five days per week."

"Just like private businesses had to make adjustments to deal with the changes in operations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the district knows that if we are not able to get back to our core business model of instructing students face-to-face five days per week, we will also have to make the necessary reductions to our staff to continue to operate in the efficient and fiscally responsible manner our community expects."

The staffing shoe dropped Aug. 24, when the board approved another $430,000 in cuts through the reduction of employment hours for district support staff members, media specialists and food-services workers.

That action reduced the district's 2020-21 general-fund budget to approximately $132 million.

"For most employees, staffing hours on Wednesdays were cut in half while regrettably, others had their Wednesday hours temporarily eliminated," said Crystal Davis, the district's public relations director. "These reductions will save an additional $430,000 in wages and benefits, and will more closely align our staffing needs to our current service delivery models."

Davis said the staffing reductions "recognize the need for us to wisely and prudently expend our resources to match service levels that we are able to provide during the pandemic."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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