DEFIANCE - The superintendent of this city school district proposed last night that board members make sweeping cuts within the schools to account for a projected $1.2 million deficit.
Dr. Richard Motuelle recommended that the district start by eliminating 10 teaching positions and five support staff positions for next school year - cuts that won't be renewed if a new levy is passed in May.
The superintendent said the district must trim $452,712 from its budget because of two failed levy requests last year. An additional $805,527 will be slashed if a levy isn't approved this spring.
“We have a speed bump in the highway, but we're going to get over it,” Dr. Motuelle said.
In addition to the mandatory personnel cuts in the 2,600-student district, Dr. Motuelle suggested that the board also decrease the amount of money spent on technology staff, gifted student services, and employee travel.
He proposed that extracurricular activities be dropped if the district fails to pass a levy. At that point, district residents would see a decrease in the schools' transportation service and a loss of three additional teachers, he predicted.
Dr. Motuelle announced his recommendations to board members just before a community forum planned for 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Defiance High School. Board members are expected to approve the superintendent's proposal for trimming the budget at their Jan. 28 meeting.
“I can reiterate it was a difficult decision for me to make,” Dr. Motuelle said of the proposed reductions. “I did not take it lightly.”
Board President Peggy Roth said last night that the board wants to solicit as much public comment as possible before approving the cuts and deciding the millage for the May primary.
She said board members remain optimistic that a levy can be approved. She pointed to the November election in which a combined levy request for 11 mills was defeated by just 250 votes.
Ms. Roth said the board is considering scaling back the upcoming tax issue, possibly agreeing on an emergency 7.1-mill request.
No residents spoke out at the district's board meeting last night. Neither did two school union leaders who listened to the proceedings.
Dr. Motuelle had informed teachers and staff members of his recommended reductions last week.
Neal Detter, president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees in Defiance, said he was not surprised by the suggested cuts.
“After the November election, we knew something was coming,” he said.
Mr. Detter, whose union represents support staff, and Daniela McAfee, whose union represents 180 teachers, said they were optimistic that they'll be able to work with the board in making personnel cuts according to the contract.
No decisions have been made on which jobs will be terminated, they said.