Huber Heights schools consider $1.7M in cuts, plan 8.12-mill tax levy for May

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Reductions to administration, teacher hiring proposed; district’s spending exceeded revenue last year, but cash balance is healthy

HUBER HEIGHTS — Superintendent Jason Enix presented the Huber Heights school board with a $1.7 million budget cut proposal for the 2023-24 school year on Thursday evening, including staff reductions and the re-allocation of federal grant funds.

The proposal is part of a larger effort to improve the district’s financial status, which administrators say is at risk, based on upcoming years’ projected deficits. The plan also includes a large tax levy on the May 2023 ballot, and larger proposed cuts if that 8.12-mill levy is rejected.

Enix’s presentation outlined five potential cost-reduction areas, including administration, grant reallocations, teaching positions, classified staff, and general cost savings.

As a preface to his presentation, Enix said the district is “not an overstaffed organization,” and that any reductions will inevitably have “significant impacts on the ability to provide current or future levels of expected services and supports” for students.

According to Enix, salaries and benefits make up close to 85% of the district’s general fund expenditures. That’s similar to the ratio historically in most local school districts. As such, personnel reductions account for the majority of the proposed cost-saving initiatives.

Among administrative personnel, Enix’s proposal recommends the elimination of four positions: public relations supervisor, career pathways supervisor, human resources supervisor, and hardware/software technology integration coordinator. These cuts alone would amount to about $612,000 in savings, counting salaries and all benefits, he said.

The reduction in funding of the public relations supervisor position has already begun, Enix said. The most recent supervisor resigned and is serving as an as-needed consultant during the transition to a new public relations model, he said. The district will use a a part-time public relations specialist through the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, paid through city/county superintendent funds, Enix said.

Enix’s proposed cut to teaching personnel is not through layoffs, but by reducing its anticipated hiring by eight positions.

“There were 10 additional certified staff positions that were added to the five-year forecast to offset some additional staffing needs throughout the district,” Enix said. “As of the moment, eight of those are being pulled back out as reductions for next school year.”

This reduction is estimated to provide $640,000 in general fund relief.

Among classified personnel, Enix proposed the elimination of one floating paraprofessional, resulting in about $50,000 in savings.

In a reallocation of federal grant funding, Enix said the district can use Title I, II, and IV funds to pay for curriculum supervisor salaries, which could result in around $314,000 in cost savings from the general fund.

Other general fund cost-saving options proposed by Enix include a $20,000 reduction in staff training funds and a $25,000 decrease in after-school tutoring funds. Additionally, reductions to contracts for Graduation Alliance and ESC behavioral services will allow for around $50,000 and $37,000 in general fund relief, respectively.

Huber Heights Schools Treasurer Penny Rucker said in November that the district spent $3.56 million more than it took in last school year and that deficit spending is projected to “continue exponentially” over the next five years, potentially depleting the district’s cash reserves quickly.

This discussion was held one week after the district submitted its 5-year forecast to the state, which shows that the district started this school year with about $57 million in the bank. This equals about 75% of one year’s expenses, which is about double the statewide average, according to a recent Dayton Daily News study.

Enix pointed to the fact that no new tax levy has been approved for district operations in over 15 years. That is one of the longest gaps in the region.

“There has been no additional local operating revenue since 2005, so we’re still working, locally, on the budget that was approved in 2005,” Enix said. “Our operating expenses, though, continue to increase.”

Enix said the district is anticipating state revenue to be flat going forward. It has risen over the past decade, according to Ohio Department of Education data.

Along with the cost-reduction efforts, the board officially voted Thursday to put a five-year property tax levy equivalent to 8.12 mills on the May ballot. The emergency levy would generate $6.9 million per year, according to district officials.

Rucker said in November that even if an emergency levy is approved by voters in May, the district will need to make at least $1.7 million in cuts within the next year in order to stay in good financial standing. If a levy is not passed in May, she said the number could rise to a total of $5 million in the next year.

The school board also passed a resolution Thursday directing Enix to present a parallel cost-savings proposal, this one totaling $2.4 million for 2023-24 in case the May tax levy is rejected, to be discussed at the Jan. 26 work session.

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