(Annie Brewer/WOUB)

Budget Cuts Forthcoming At Alexander Local Schools

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After the first operating levy in 25 years failed to pass, the superintendent at Alexander Local Schools is preparing to decide, along with the board of education, what — not if — cuts will be made.

“We will begin looking, for next year, at how we will balance our budget,” said Superintendent Lindy Douglas. “Balancing the budget will include cuts because…there is no increase in funding.”

The levy would have instituted a 1.5 percent earned income tax on residents of the district, but was voted down by 56 percent of Athens County voters, according to unofficial election results.

With a drop in state funding, the district ran a deficit of about $100,000 in the 2016-2017 school year, and Douglas estimated a $500,000 deficit for the next school year. Insurance premiums went up 10 percent, and the cost of education is gradually growing, causing a need for extra funding from the community, she said.

“We’ve always balanced the budget through attrition (not filling job vacancies), we’ve done that historically, but we’re to the point…it’s going to be very difficult to balance with attrition and not feel the loss with educating the kids,” Douglas said.

The board will meet next week to decide what specific cuts will be made, but Douglas listed many items that could be on the chopping block.

“It may be preschool, textbooks, support services, transportation, staff, reading tutors, and other items,” she said.

The district “probably should have gone on the ballot sooner than this,” the superintendent said, but the method of attrition was traditionally the method for a balanced budget.

“If we continue with attrition, class sizes will increase, we won’t be able to offer as many electives, we won’t be able to offer reading intervention programs like we have in the past,” Douglas said.

The school is receiving Kids on Campus 21st Century grants for after-school programming, but the funding sources are not enough to keep the district from cutting in certain areas.

Douglas was told by voters they didn’t have enough information about the levy to vote for it, despite town hall meetings, postcards to registered voters and a Facebook presence by the levy committee.

“I’ve heard ‘well, if I would have known that you’re going to cut jobs, I would have voted ‘yes,'” Douglas said. “I’ve heard ‘you’ve always made it before, why can’t you make it now?'”

Warren Local Schools also saw their ballot measure get rejected by voters. The 4.49-mill levy to build new school facilities including a high school and middle school, failed with 57 percent of the 40 total voters in Athens County turning it down. Superintendent Kyle Newton was unavailable for comment on the measure.