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Indian Creek officials consider funding options

MINGO JUNCTION — Officials with the Indian Creek Local School District are eyeing three potential funding scenarios in the wake of deep cuts in state funding as the school board approves its five-year forecast.

Officials approved the forecast during the regular meeting May 21 at Indian Creek Middle School after District Treasurer Denise Todoroff presented possible options that are being discussed. The scenarios come as Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $775 million reduction in K-12 education funding, which Todoroff said comprised at least 4.8 percent of the district’s state funding.

“We have to submit an updated forecast,” Todoroff said. “It’s currently unknown what the funding is going to be next year and beyond.

“Superintendent T.C. Chappelear and I have talked about different plans and scenarios and we will update them.”

She said treasurers across Ohio have been meeting to discuss numbers and many are providing a three-model scenario to the state because they are unsure of what the figures will be. Todoroff said the state’s rainy day fund equates to $2.7 billion but Ohio’s deficit could possibly double that amount.”

“K-12 funding is 42 percent of the budget and that is why schools took a huge hit,” she added. “Indian Creek had a reduction of 4.8 percent of the foundation funding, which is a $446,000 loss. We won’t be receiving a check from the state; we’ll be paying the state some money.”

The district’s three scenarios depict losses of 4.8 percent, about 9 percent and 15 percent and incorporate resuming normal operations at current staff levels. However, they do not include about $470,000 in federal CARES Act funding or the potential expansion of EdChoice vouchers to parochial and private schools that public school districts are fighting.

“If EdChoice vouchers are approved, that will drastically affect funding and it is unknown what will happen to the student success and wellness funds. As of now, they will be gone in 2022. We also have to consider reduced tax collections and expect a decrease in oil and gas funds,” she said. “Oil and gas funds increased now and will help carry us through this year and next year.”

She said officials will have some choices to make in the foreseeable future.

“If it’s cut by 4.8 percent we should be OK, but we need to make decisions starting for fiscal year 2022. There is so much unknown at this time and I’m concerned about the cash flow in January and February with low property tax collections.”

She added that the second scenario would double the reduction amount to more than $900,000 while the third option — which is the worst-case scenario –would put the total at more than $1.3 million. To that end, she and Chappelear would have to look at other reductions to lessen the blow.

“Every day information is changing and we simply have to adapt to it,” she said.

Chappelear said close attention will be paid to expenditures in the meantime to ease the strain on the district’s coffers.

“We’re going back to the old Indian Creek way of really only purchasing necessities and keeping travel costs down. We’re not expanding or doing any hiring, but we don’t have any reduction in force plans at this time that we need to enact,” he said.

He added that Ohio Equity and Equality is taking steps to challenge the constitutionality of the EdChoice system and the district is interested in participating.

“Ohio Equity and Adequacy got law firms involved and we put our name in the hat as interested in being involved with that. It is still in the exploratory stage, but there is a lot going on to fight the EdChoice vouchers,” Chappelear added.

Meanwhile, leaders praised faculty, staff, administrators, students and their families for capping off an arduous year in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Following a successful senior procession to highlight the Class of 2020 on May 9, plans are in the works to film the Indian High School’s virtual graduation. Officials said it has been a moving experience for school and community members alike and it also reinforces the strength of the people as they work together to get through this unprecedented time.

Karen Lloyd, president of the Indian Creek Education Association, said the procession sparked a lot of joy amid the bleakness.

“The parade was better than I imagined and we and the high school got to say goodbye to the seniors,” she said. “It took me back to high school and when a community comes together. This is Indian Creek and people are seeing it.”

Board member Kim Mark said the procession was needed so the kids could have closure, while Chappelear said the past few months have been a testament to working together.

“I think it is definitely true that you learn a lot about people and adversity. Our people really stepped up on a lot of fronts with online learning and supporting students at the procession.”

He noted that a learning cadre will be held to prepare for next year while a summer academy is eyed for all grades from July to the start of the new school term to help students prepare for more studies.

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