GENEVA — Wednesday’s Geneva Area City Schools board of education meeting was bittersweet as officials honored those who helped pass an income tax on the May 8 ballot while still having to cut 10 staff members — an unpopular move with some in attendance.
The cuts — known as reductions in force — were approved by the board, but not until after some members of the public made their disappointment known. Officials said the public had been forewarned that even if the levy passed there would still be cuts.
The affected positions were: seven teachers, one Title One tutor, one guidance counselor and Middle School Assistant Principal Todd Tulino.
Some in the audience, among them members of the committee that helped pass the district’s 1.25 percent income tax levy for operating expenses, were particularly unhappy to see the well-liked Tulino go.
Superintendent Eric Kujala said the RIF decisions were made based on seniority.
“The reductions will be in force for next year,” he said. “The BOE will meet and review our current status and make any decisions in regards to bringing any positions back in the future. At this time, there’s no definitive time frame for re-instituting any positions.”
Kujala said the BOE would prioritize a list of positions that may be brought back. He said there were contractual procedures to follow.
“Employees could remain on a recall list for up to three years unless they resign, take a full-time job elsewhere or don’t accept a position offered in a similar area,” he said.
The board also approved a revised five-year forecast, which is due to the state board of education by the end of the month.
Kujala said that while the five-year forecast had no direct effect on the reductions in force, the reductions were necessary because of deficit spending in the forecast. The new forecast included the reductions in its calculations, he said.
“Without reductions, deficits would be much larger,” Kujala said. “But over the next few years we should be able to slowly restore some of the reductions as the funds from the (school district income tax) levy increase, barring any any other significant issues in state funding.”
Treasurer Kevin Lillie said because the state had placed the district in fiscal caution before the levy passed, funding would come in slowly. He said the school district would receive less than $145,000 in 2019, about $1.9 million in 2020 and about $3 million in 2021.
“We will not receive any new funding until April of 2019,” Kujala said. “In addition, there are some increases in cost that are still to be determined.”
He said the reductions the district made were difficult and the district budget would be tight for the next five years.
In the original five-year forecast, total revenues for 2019 were predicted to be $21.5 million with expenditures at $23.7 million, leaving the district without any cash balance and a deficit of $693,000.
In the revised forecast, revenues and other financing sources for 2019 were projected to be $21.9 million with expenditures at about $22.3 million, leaving a cash balance of $1.7 million.
By the end of the five-year period, the district is now expected to have revenues of $25.8 million and expenditures coming at $25.2 million with the cash balance having grown to $2.8 million.
Original estimates for 2022 had revenues at $21.7 million and expenditures coming to $25.7 million — with a five-year deficit at almost $11 million.
At the meeting, Kujala congratulated members of the levy’s core committee and read a letter of thanks. He then presented each member of the committee with a copy of the letter.
Financial discussions continued to return to the state issues.
Board member Richard Dana said because of the state school funding crisis, Austinburg, which has had an elementary school for 200 years, almost lost its building. Passage of the levy kept Austinburg Elementary open, but the struggle to make state school funding more equitable is not over, he said.
“We have a lot more to do,” he said. “Let’s allow teachers to teach and stop this needless focus on testing.”
Geneva Area City Schools Board of Education President Ed Brashear said he hoped students would get involved in promoting equitable school funding policies.
“We must hold our representatives accountable,” he said. “Students should make their voices heard. There’s a call to action.”