December 29, 2014

Elyria
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Clearview Schools audit: Cut staff to reduce deficit

SHEFFIELD TWP. — An Ohio Auditors Office performance audit of Clearview Schools recommends cutting 14 positions — including eight teachers — to eliminate future deficits.

The audit, released Thursday, recommends $888,000 in cuts, including about $397,000 through teacher cuts. Clearview has forecast deficits of about $134,000 in the 2015-16 school year, $1.1 million in 2016-17 and $3.4 million in 2017-18.

Clearview would have a $135,000 surplus in 2017-18 if the cuts were implemented, according to a news release from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost.

“Large projected deficits mean large and often difficult changes need to be made,” Yost said. “Clearview’s current financial position calls for reduced spending.”

The teacher savings would be achieved by going to a minimum state requirement of a 25 to 1 student to teacher ratio. The approximately 1,750-student district has a roughly 21 to 1 ratio.

“While it is not common practice in Ohio to operate at or near state minimums, (Clearview) may need to make significant staffing reductions to address potential deficits if savings cannot be identified and achieved in other areas of operation,” the audit said.

Besides teachers, the audit recommends cutting four of Clearview’s education service personnel — positions such as counselors, librarians or school nurses — saving $307,500. Another $100,000 would be saved by cutting salaries and seniority-based wage increases known as steps for bus drivers, cafeteria workers and secretaries.

Two buildings and grounds position cuts also are suggested, saving $39,500. The audit said the amount of Clearview maintenance staff is above national averages and existing staff could do more work.

The audit also recommends increasing open enrollment to increase state taxpayer funding to the district while not hiring more teachers. Clearview, which receives about $5,700 per student in state funds, had the second highest open enrollment percentage in Ohio in the last school year and has a waiting list for all grades. The audit said Clearview also should consider privatizing food service to reduce costs.

The audit compared Clearview to five comparable school districts. Despite its student population being 8.5 percent smaller than its peers, Clearview outspent them by about 5 percent per pupil, according to Yost.

Superintendent Jerome Davis, district Treasurer Sean Nuccio, Joel Gleason, teachers union president, and Melissa Newsome, school board president, didn’t return calls Thursday. However, board member Rev. Danny Parsons did.

Parsons said requesting the free audit in December or January was a good idea, and there are some valid suggestions such as uniform classroom temperatures to reduce energy costs. Nonetheless, Parsons said he opposed its major recommendations. Parsons said reducing teachers and increasing class sizes would decrease educational quality, which is why parents send their children to Clearview.

“Make people do more work for less money? I don’t think that would create a happy working environment, nor would that be beneficial to the students,” he said. “I’m never a fan of cutting staff and adding more kids to the classroom.”

Parsons said projected deficits are not caused by money mismanagement, but shrinking local tax revenue due to the bad economy, less state funding and rising costs. Parsons said Clearview likely will have to ask taxpayers to approve a levy in the next two years to eliminate the deficit.

“I just hope if it does come to that, that the community and taxpayers will see how well we manage the money in the school system and be more than willing to support such a levy,” he said. “If we just sit back and do nothing and mismanage the money, I wouldn’t vote for the levy myself.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.