Lisa Sobecki and board President Bob Vasquez confer before the special board meeting. Mr. Vasquez said that cutting district programs to the bone affects more than just dollars and cents.
The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
The Toledo Board of Education last night heard a long list of cost-cutting proposals that included closing Libbey High School and eliminating athletics in the district as a way to close a projected $30 million budget deficit next year.
Other proposed cuts included the elimination of bus transportation for high school students and the establishment of a two-mile walking zone for others, along with the elimination of school crossing guards, school resource officers, the uniform subsidy, and the intern-intervention mentoring program.
Abolishing athletics would save $3.54 million, while closing Libbey would trim costs by $1.73 million.
Ending busing for high school students would save $1.16 million. The district transports students who live more than a mile from school; increasing that to two miles for elementary and middle schoolers would save $950,000.
The proposed cuts were released to the school board last night at a special meeting. The administration was under instructions from the board to prepare them.
No public comment was allowed last night, but the board has scheduled a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. March 17 at Start High School, at which feedback will be sought.
There will be another meeting March 23 at which the board will approve two lists of cuts — one totaling $30 million and another $17.5 million.
The $30 million list will go into effect if voters reject the strapped district's request for a 0.75 percent tax on earned income on the May 4 ballot. The $17.5 million in cuts will be implemented if the tax passes.
The income tax, if approved, would generate $18.1 million annually. The tax would apply to district residents no matter where they worked.
Exempted from the tax would be pension income, as well as unemployment compensation, interest, and dividends.
Administrators and board members found the proposed cuts, which totaled $38.76 million, difficult to contemplate.
Superintendent John Foley said “This is the most difficult budget I have ever had to work with. … This will be a different district when we are done.”
Board President Bob Vasquez noted that cutting district programs to the bone meant eliminating options, and “I think losing those options is moving backwards. … The results are more than money. They will affect our students, they will affect out staff. … When we talk about making cuts, we're cutting people's jobs.”
The proposals also included closing Toledo Technology Academy to save $1.26 million and Toledo Early College High School, which would trim $1.39 million. The district's single-gender schools, the Stewart Academy for Girls and the Lincoln Academy for Boys, would be consolidated for a savings of $344,211.
The proposals outlined last night envisioned staffing reductions because of enrollment losses that would save $1.79 million. The eliminated staffers were 34 teachers, six administrators, and five clerks.
Other cost savings included:
•Adjusting starting times ($1 million).
•Spending less on food, charging more for meals, and making other food-service reductions ($1 million).
•Reductions in textbook purchases ($1 million).
•Elimination of elementary summer school and programs that require additional staff or payments beyond core instruction ($2.3 million).
•Elimination of outdoor education, in which students are sent to the YMCA's Camp Storer ($420,665).
Francine Lawrence, president of the teachers' union, said later that the cuts would devastate the Toledo Public Schools, which she described as “one of the top urban districts in the United States. … If these cuts are adopted, it will be the beginning of the end of a quality district.”
Mr. Vasquez declined to allow Mrs. Lawrence to speak during the meeting, explaining that the special board meeting did not include a public-comment period.
In other action, the board approved hiring the Ohio School Boards Association to find candidates for the position of superintendent, which becomes vacant when Mr. Foley steps down at the end of July.
Contact Carl Ryan at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6050.