Eliminating 31 full-time staff positions, freezing pay, increasing employees’ share of health insurance premiums, and adopting other cost-cutting measures could help the financially squeezed Rossford school district trim about $3.75 million from its annual operating expenses, according to the findings of a performance audit by the auditor of state.
The audit found that the Rossford system is overstaffed, compared to comparable districts, and its personnel overpaid. Even a two-year salary freeze would leave the district with higher compensation than its “peer” school systems.
Rossford Superintendent Dan Creps noted that the audit was not based on the district’s latest data and did not include the layoffs of four teachers in May — for a $320,000 annual savings — and the elimination of other staff positions to reduce spending. The board authorized the state audit two years ago, before Mr. Creps was hired.
“The numbers do not include our most recent job eliminations and reductions in force,” the superintendent said.
As for the district’s pay scales, “Some of these things are negotiated,” Mr. Creps explained. “We are maintaining a dialogue with everyone working for our district, including our union members, to see how we tackle these issues.” He said many of the audit’s comparative numbers are based on state minimums, which Rossford exceeds in areas such as busing.
In a comparison of expenditures per pupil, Rossford’s administrative and instructional spending is 40 percent higher than comparable districts, the audit report states, and its spending on building operations is 26 percent higher. The results are based on the district’s costs in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 fiscal years.
Like other districts, Rossford has been coping with a significant drop in property valuations and the abolition of the state’s tangible personal property tax. It has not asked voters for additional operating funds in 12 years, but the board is expected to place a request for a new levy on the November ballot. To cut costs, the district closed Indian Hills Elementary as a school building at the end of the 2013-2014 year.
Mr. Creps said the fact that 12 years have passed since the most recent operating-levy request makes Rossford virtually unique. “That’s a really positive point that I like to raise. I want people to understand that we have been fiscally responsible. Most districts are on a three to five-year cycle in asking for additional funds ”
The most recent year the district’s revenue exceeded expenses was 2009-2010. Since then, the Rossford schools have steadily drained cash reserves to cover the difference between income and spending. The district was projected to finish the 2013-2014 year with $3.59 million. Beyond that, its reserves are exhausted without spending cuts, new revenue, or a combination of the two, with deficits climbing to more than $12 million by June, 2017.
The latest three-year teacher’s contract, adopted last year, gives modest pay increases and requires teachers to pay more for medical insurance, but continues 4 percent annual “step” raises and increases net costs each year. Rossford teachers are the highest paid in Wood County.
The audit also found that the district could save $95,800 annually by eliminating pension pick-ups for administrative staff. Putting health insurance costs at the same level as its peer districts could save the district $508,900, and overhauling the bus system could save $230,900.
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.
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