Budget cuts are the only ‘options’ if levy fails, Ross school leader says

ROSS TWP. —Budget cuts in personnel and programs are coming to Ross Schools regardless of the outcome of the May 2 tax hike issue but those reductions will be much worse, said district officials, if voters reject a levy for a third consecutive time in less than a year.

The academically acclaimed but financially struggling school system now finds itself backed into a corner, said district officials, with few places to go to relieve its money woes.

In a letter sent to school families Thursday, Ross Superintendent Chad Konkle stated: “We know you and your children will be impacted by these reductions in programming and staffing.”

“However, at this juncture, there are no other options,” said Konkle, citing Ross’ $1.8 million in previous program and staffing reductions.

“The next round of cuts will tear into the fabric of our district,” who urged residents in the rural/suburban district to “closely look at the (proposed) cuts so that you have a very clear understanding of what’s at stake.”

ExploreState recommends Ross Schools make cuts to jobs and student programs

The stakes are high as Ross is tittering on the edge of increased state control over its financial operations, which if the upcoming levy is defeated would entail the state ordering another, larger property tax issue to be placed on the November ballot. It’s a process, which would be repeated in 2024 and perhaps beyond if the string of ballot defeats remains unbroken.

During Wednesday evening’s school board work session, Konkle told the board and audience of more than two dozen “we are in a desperate situation.”

Board member Amy Webb said after Konkle’s presentation on the cuts, “it’s not pretty any way you look at it.”

Ross voters will decide on a proposed 5-year, 9.44-mill emergency property tax increase, which is on the May 2 ballot. If approved, the new tax would increase the annual school tax for the owner of a $100,000 home by $330.

The school system, which after two consecutive tax levy defeats last year has fallen into the “fiscal caution” stage as determined by the state, is facing the prospect of slicing millions of dollars in employee and student programs for the next two school years should voters again reject a proposed property tax increase.

Thursday evening saw the Ross Board of Education hold a work session

Among the Ohio Auditor’s major budget cutting recommendations in its report released Thursday was the elimination of four teaching positions, two art teachers, 1.5 student counselor positions, one curriculum specialist and half of a library staff position.

Moreover, one central office administrator and one school building administrator’s position are also recommended for elimination.

These suggested budget cuts, combined with contracting for cheaper employee healthcare costs and reducing food service staffing daily, total hourly pay would accumulate to about $2 million a year in annual savings in the district’s yearly $28 million operating budget, according to the audit.

But state auditors cautioned these “tier I” recommendations done alone will not return Ross Schools to solvency.

Last year, Ross cut $1.8 million from its budget in trying to cover its projected financial shortfalls.

Student athletic and other extracurricular fees have jumped from $150 in the 2021-2022 school year to $825 this school year. If the proposed levy passes however, the student fee will drop to $300, said school officials.

For more information on Ross Schools’ finances, its proposed tax hike and details on personnel and student program budget cuts go to the district’s website and click on “financial update.

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