The Huber Heights school board held a public meeting to collect input on a proposed tax levy and millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts Thursday, but turnout was low and only one district resident addressed the board.
“You’re either going to run on the election to get a levy or you’re going to tie your hands into eliminating certain positions ... The problem is that you’ve not really explained to the community why we need a levy,” said district resident and parent Michael Humphrey. “There are a lot of things we are rushing through, (and) whether this has to do with the staff contract negotiations this summer ... I don’t know.”
Humphrey said while he is in support of the levy proposal, he feels the community is being given an ultimatum without having the details to make an informed decision.
In early January, Superintendent Jason Enix proposed an initial $1.7 million cost-savings package as part of a larger effort to improve the district’s financial status, which administrators say is at risk, based on upcoming years’ projected deficits. But the school district also has a higher cash balance, as a percentage of expenses, than most local school districts.
Two weeks later, Enix presented a larger $2.4 million budget cut proposal, which would include additional changes to staffing and operations, as well as the district’s athletic program. This additional $2.4 million in cuts would only come into play if the 8.12-mill tax levy on the May 2023 ballot is rejected, Enix said.
“Think of the $1.7 million (proposal) as tightening the belt, whereas the $2.4 million would be cost savings due to a failed levy,” Enix said.
Both cut proposals include reductions to personnel. The larger proposal includes more staff cuts, plus a recommendation to double pay-to-play fees for extracurricular activities.
The next regular board meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m., during which board members are expected to vote to approve or deny both proposed budget cut packages.
Humphrey said staff cuts could be a bad choice, citing fights and problems already present in his daughter’s school. He also said this week’s discussions of the next state budget suggest there may be additional funding heading to the district that is not factored into the five-year forecast.
“What we’re doing is trying to force things down people’s throats and say, ‘Either pass it or we’re going to cut it,’ and that is not the way to get this levy passed,” he said.
Treasurer Penny Rucker said Huber Heights schools’ state money is currently capped in Ohio’s funding formula, and the promise of additional funding isn’t concrete, in a budget process that will go on for months.
“What they specifically put out at first glance for the headlines isn’t what we’re going to end up with,” she said. “You hope for the best and plan for the worst. One of the worst things you can do is overestimate your revenue and then not be able to use your five-year forecast as a true planning document. If you end up with more money, great, then all of these (cuts) can come back, but if you don’t (end up with more money), you better be prepared.”
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