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Salem plans to retain all jobs next school year

SALEM — City school officials projecting a possible $1.3 million loss in state funding between this year and next said they have a plan that involves no job loss.

“This plan is proactive. It doesn’t affect too many programs and nobody’s losing a job,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said this week.

irkland and school Treasurer Michael Douglas informed the board of their proposal during a special meeting before the regular meeting, both held via Zoom.

The district had already started figuring how to handle a spending deficit for this year, then COVID-19 hit and on May 5, the governor dropped a funding bombshell, announcing a reduction in the budget for education with only two months left in the fiscal year.

The district had a bigger hole to fill.

The cut means a revenue loss of $409,674 for the Salem city school district this year. Douglas also said he’s anticipating a 10 percent reduction for next year (the fiscal year starts July 1), which equates to an additional loss of $900,000 in state funding. That’s a total of $1.3 million.

Fortunately for the district, some retirements of longtime staff will work to the budget’s advantage, allowing for spending reductions for personnel through attrition.

Kirkland said at this time, the in-school suspension position at the high school and the Buckeye School art teacher position won’t be filled, but stressed the intention is for those vacancies to be temporary until there’s a better understanding of what the finances will look like after next year. He also said an English position at the high school won’t be filled, with some duties combined.

The overall estimated savings for personnel costs, including fringes, will be $703,000.

Another part of the plan is to move the multi-handicapped unit back to Buckeye instead of contracting with the Columbiana County Educational Service Center to have the students transported to Lisbon to be taught through the ESC. The district will hire its own instructor for the unit and save on the transportation costs. That will mean a possible savings of $235,000 in purchase services.

The next area deals with capital outlay, where some of those costs for some technology can be moved from general fund to the permanent improvement fund, possibly saving $135,000. An additional $143,000 could be added to that total for debt repayment, moving the cost for the energy savings project from several years ago to permanent improvement instead of taking it out of the general fund. That would mean $278,000 worth of costs moved from general fund to permanent improvement.

Altogether from personnel, contractual services and moving money from general fund to permanent improvements, that closes the gap by more than $1.1 to $1.2 million.

Douglas said a premium holiday, meaning a break from paying the medical insurance premium, will save $330,000, bringing the total savings up to $1.4 million.

Kirkland said another consideration will be the CARES Act funding the school is expected to receive related to the pandemic, which is expected to total $626,000, but will have rules for spending and how it can be used. “This plan puts us in a pretty good spot where we feel comfortable.”

During the regular meeting, Douglas reviewed the five-year forecast, which the board approved during the consent agenda. The forecast recognizes the estimated losses in state funding, which historically makes up 42 percent of district revenue.

All five years show deficits, but balances are positive after the cash on hand is added in. Douglas said the district is doing the best it can considering what happened and what’s predicted for state funding.

“Hopefully it’s not as doom and gloom as they’ve been telling us,” he said.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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