Middletown Schools cuts positions, boosts sports fees as part of $2M in budget moves

Economic uncertainty – combined with the rising cost of private school vouchers and flat state funding – has Middletown Schools officials slashing $2 million from next school year’s budget.

The budget reductions will include the elimination of three non-teaching positions in the Butler County school system. They will also mean school families will pay more for their children to play sports.

The $2 million cuts were recently approved by the Middletown Board of Education in a unanimous vote and will impact the 2020-2021 school year. The district has a projected $80 million operating budget.

The many unknown variables brought on by economic turbulence of the coronavirus shutdowns of most businesses in Ohio helped to prompt the district’s action, said Middletown Schools Treasurer Randy Betram.

Moreover, the state’s recent attempts to expand the EdChoice private school voucher program, which was postponed for a year in the wake of the virus closing down all Ohio K-12 public and private schools – also prompted the coming cuts in programs and personnel.

Middletown school officials joined others in the area in opposing EdChoice’s expansion, citing both its rising costs and echoing complaints of unfairness in the program’s proposed broadening.

The district is projected to have to pay $1.25 million into the EdChoice voucher program in 2020-2021.

“The unfortunate circumstances with EdChoice forces the district to find ways to stretch our remaining public taxpayer dollars as much as we can and that means reductions,” said Bertram. “Thankfully the administrative team was able to put together a $2 million reduction plan that students will not feel inside their classroom.”

No teacher positions will be eliminated, Betram said.

The three jobs discontinued include two non-instructional staff jobs in the district’s central office and a non-teaching Middletown High School staffer job.

Marlon Styles Jr., superintendent of the city schools, has been one of the more vocal local school leaders publicly criticizing attempts to expand EdChoice that would entail public schools paying the private school tuition for students who never attended their local public district.

“While the Middletown City School District funds private school tuition, the state of Ohio flat funded the state funding we received in 2019 for the current biennium regardless of our increased enrollment and payment of EdChoice students who have never attended Middletown Schools,” said Styles.

District officials said administrative budgets will be reduced by 10 percent for the upcoming school year.

And starting with school sports in August, the district will increase participation fees from $50 to $75 per sport, with a family cap of $150 per school year.

District officials said the $50 per sport fee had been in place for three decades.

Chris Urso, president of the Middletown school board, said the reductions were necessary.

“It is my hope the Middletown community will advocate for our students by reaching out to our elected officials for an end to the expansion of EdChoice and a fix for the state’s funding formula,” said Urso.

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