October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain teachers OK contract

LORAIN — Lorain school officials are reeling over a budget shortfall expected to reach a staggering $4.75 million in just weeks, though a tentative agreement passed by the teachers union late Tuesday could help. 
School officials said Thursday the deficit — discovered after a recent review of the district’s finances — could result in across-the-board job cuts.
A recent review of the district’s finances revealed the projected cost for purchase services — expenses for charter schools, utilities and transportation — will amount to $21 million, rather than the $16 million projected by former Treasurer Jim Estle, said Ryan Ghizzoni, the district’s new treasurer.
Of the $21 million, about 40 percent — or $8.5 million —goes to charter schools. The district has lost 1,500 students to charter schools in the last five years, and the state funding for those students goes with them.
“It’s hard to tell what our previous treasurer did or how he came to those figures,” Ghizzoni said Tuesday. “I don’t know how he came up with those numbers. I hope to have more information later this week.”
Dean Schnurr, spokesman for the district, said making up the unexpected shortfall will be a shared responsibility for every employee group in the district, including teachers.
“We’ll start with administration,” Schnurr said. “We expect $1 million in reductions in the administrative level alone.”
Exactly which jobs and how many jobs will be cut remains to be determined, though programming and salaries will not be reduced, Schnurr said.
The Lorain Education Association teachers union met late Tuesday and “overwhelmingly approved” a tentative agreement with the school district, which could help ease the new-found deficit, school officials said.
In a press release late Thursday, Lorain Schools Superintendent Dee Morgan said the district is grateful to the teachers for accepting the contract.
“It’s clear that they understand the financial challenges we faces as a district, and they have the vision and fortitude to do what is right for the children and this community,” Morgan said.
Officials from the teachers union declined to comment further on the details of the agreement, and said they’d withhold comment until the school board voted on it at the regular board meeting Monday.
“We thank all of our members for understanding the importance of this ratification,” said Christine Miller, LEA president, which represents 711 members.
Schnurr said the teachers’ union approval of the new contract will “give the district the ability to balance staffing levels with projected enrollment.”
If the district still doesn’t make up the shortfall by the end of the next fiscal year, which ends Dec. 30, it will be placed on fiscal emergency status by the Ohio Department of Education.
Contact Bette Pearce at 329-7148 or bpearce@chroniclet.com. Reporter Shawn Foucher contributed to this article.