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Published: 6/4/2013

TPS revised audit projects fewer possible savings than draft report

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A revised performance audit of Toledo Public Schools recommends changes that could save the district $91 million over five years, $10 million less in savings than a draft version projected.

The report was presented to the Toledo Board of Education on Tuesday by a private consulting firm, Evergreen Solutions.

It took into account corrections compiled by district staff, board members, and union leaders of a draft version released in April.

"The job isn't over, but we certainly are off to a great start," Cecilia Adams, board vice president, said.

The revised audit eliminated two of 169 original recommendations and altered cost savings projections in several others.

Employee union leaders had claimed the first draft was riddled with errors. They argued Evergreen had used inflated salary information for some staff or outdated enrollment data.

TPS revised audit report

Despite the changes, the largest projected savings would still come from major reductions in the use of special education paraprofessionals.

The audit says Ohio does not require a paraprofessional with emotionally disturbed students if districts have a classroom management and crisis intervention plan. The teachers' union contract says each emotionally disturbed classroom should have a paraprofessional. The audit said the district could eliminate 73 paraprofessionals.

Asked if she was felt paraprofessionals have no educational benefit for those students, Evergreen Solutions president Linda Recio said the cuts shouldn't reduce academic performance unless staff were used in an instructional capacity.

The report also recommends TPS increase class sizes for cognitively disabled students and reduce the number of teachers for those classes. 

Projected savings in special education increased in the final report from the draft. The projected $18.2 million in savings is up from about $15 million because of a higher calculation in the average salary and benefits for paraprofessionals. 

In many other areas where the report projects large savings, however, the final draft downgraded projected savings after making corrections.

The report still recommends 15 assistant principal positions be cut, but changed how it calculated average compensation.

Savings over five years are now estimated at $6.4 million, instead of $8.5 million. Clerical staff position cuts would save about $2 million, instead of $5 million, after Evergreen corrected inaccurate building enrollment data. And recommended reductions in supplemental pay for staff decreased from about $7.8 million in the draft to about $4.5 in the final version.

Evergreen also eliminated a recommendation to cut nine psychologists, which would have saved about $4 million. District staff said the previous recommendation was based on an only partial reading of state regulations.

According to an analysis by TPS Treasurer Matt Cleland, about $52 million, or 57 percent of the savings from recommendations, would require negotiated changes with employee unions. The district is currently in negotiations with employees. Contracts for all three TPS unions expire June 30.

A projected $14.7 million of savings in operating funds represents less than 5 percent of the district's $319 million operating fund that has been anticipated for the 2014 fiscal year, Mr. Cleland said.

President Brenda Hill said she will call for a vote at the board's June 25 meeting.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.


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