Toronto school cutbacks discussed

TORONTO – Cutbacks in hours, layoffs and positions not being filled next school year were discussed at Thursday’s city school board meeting.

The board voted for a cutback in hours or layoffs for five positions, according to Fred Burns, district superintendent.

“One of the (cuts) was through attrition,” said Burns, adding one part-time cook and one part-time custodian are being laid off. “Some (workers) had their hours cut, but only two people were laid off.

“The reason for the layoffs is the uncertainty of the state funding,” continued Burns, adding proposed House Bill 5 at one time could have given the Toronto City School District additional funding for operations. Burns added that is now uncertain, as the formula for the proposed bill has changed.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to get what we expected (from the state),” said Burns. “It was during a strategic planning meeting it was brought to our attention by the treasurer that we were spending our cash reserve. Our expenditures were exceeding our revenue.

“(Karaffa Middle School) secretary Julie Rock, president of the Toronto Branch of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, asked why we were making reductions in our force at this time,” continued Burns. “She was concerned at the amount of work others would have to pick up.”

Rock said the district made employment promises during the last contract negotiations it wasn’t keeping.

“We were told (employees) wouldn’t be cut (during the last contact negotiations),” Rock said, adding some positions are being eliminated altogether. “(During negotiations) we all took a pay freeze under the last contract. Our enrollment is increasing, and the office staffing won’t be the same. It’s not going to be fair to the staffing or the children. Our teachers are behind us. They know how much we do.”

Burns said salaries and benefits in the Toronto district are an unusually high expenses compared to neighboring school districts.

“Our salaries and benefits are running about 87 percent of our budget,” said Burns. “That only gives us 13 percent for (all other district operations). Between 75 to 80 percent is more ideal.”

Burns also said the district is going to reduce student/pupil field trips, not hire additional summer employees and won’t be contracting next year with Jefferson County Schools for a part-time social educator. He said the district would be saving about $250,000 annually with the cuts.

“We tried to eliminate as little as possible, but we’re not the only ones facing these problems,” said Burns.

In other business:

Board members heard a presentation from representatives of Baird Co. during the meeting.

“(The company) sold our bonds for us for the new school building,” said Burns. “We now have the opportunity to save taxpayers some funds through the years. If the government doesn’t come through with its subsidies, we can cash in the bonds and re-sell them at a lower rate, saving our taxpayers money.”

The board approved Huntington Bank as banker for district funds.

Kindergarten teacher Ellen Hughes announced her retirement after 35 years with the district.