Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Sylvania schools' future to come into focus

Sylvania board to hear about teachers' possible concessions to plug gap

Having decided last week to resubmit a 4.9-mill levy request to district voters in May, the Sylvania Board of Education Thursday evening will get an update on its employees' willingness to concede pay cuts to close part of a $6 million deficit predicted for the local schools' 2011-12 budget even if the levy passes.

Superintendent Brad Rieger said he expected to report during the meeting about the Sylvania Education Association's vote on a concessions proposal for which details were not released. Also possible was a report on negotiations with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees' union local in Sylvania.

And Mr. Rieger said he and other Sylvania City Schools administrators expected to make salary concessions too. Details of those concessions will be made public once the teachers' union's status is resolved, he said.

The operating levy proposal the board voted last week to place on the May 3 special-election ballot is expected to produce $7.1 million in annual revenue if it passes. But revenue collection would not begin until next year, and district officials have said even if it passes -- which would represent a reversal from a Nov. 2 election defeat -- the 2011-12 budget will be $6 million in the hole. That deficit would surpass $9 million if it fails.

Any employee wage concessions presumably would reduce the number of staff positions the school board would have to cut to meet its $6 million spending-cut coal.

An initial plan the board discussed during two mid-January meetings called for eliminating the full-time equivalent of 111 1/2 jobs, including 82 teachers, to accomplish most of a $6.7 million spending cut partially offset by an estimated $600,000 in unemployment insurance the district then would have to pay.

District leaders do not expect to discuss budget cuts during the work session Thursday, set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the school system's administrative offices at 4747 North Holland-Sylvania Rd. But during last week's meeting, Walt Connolly, a social-studies teacher in the district, urged the board to reconsider plans to expand kindergarten to all-day classes next year.

"I'm personally willing to give back a percentage [of my pay] to keep my community schools intact," he said.

But if 500 teachers gave up $2,000 apiece in annual compensation, he said, that would be nearly wiped out by the $850,000 more the district estimates it would spend to provide all-day kindergarten instead of the current half-day classes.

Other neighboring communities that could be considered as Sylvania's competitors are pulling back from all-day kindergarten, Mr. Connolly said, and the new Republican leadership in Columbus may move to eliminate the state mandate for such classes that was adopted during the Strickland administration.

Furthermore, Mr. Connolly said, adding full-day kindergarten now could put the district in the difficult position of having to cancel it in just a few years if state funding cuts worsen the schools' finances. At the very least, he said, school officials should consider all-day kindergarten as an optional program paid for with a tuition fee.

Mr. Rieger responded later in the week that the statutory provision allowing school districts to charge for full-day kindergarten expires this summer, and he would entertain the idea of charging a fee in Sylvania if that were extended. But he said he could not recommend dropping it.

"We made the decision that all-day kindergarten is best for students. It provides benefits that will continue throughout their academic careers," the superintendent said.

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