Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 10:49
The financial forecast is still cloudy, even if there are a few rays of sun shining through.
School district Treasurer Rhonda Melchi, in her presentation of the district's five-year forecast to the Bowling Green Board of Education Tuesday, said that the income tax collections are starting to rebound and are up $167,000 this year. However, that's after collections dropped by $600,000 from what was projected in 2009, and the district is continuing to see reductions in state funds.
Melchi explained that the loss of the personal tangible property tax on businesses is costing the district $560,000 a year and there will another similar reduction next year. What happens beyond that is uncertain.
The drop in property values in the county is costing a loss of $111,000, mostly on its 4 mills of unvoted millage.
State foundation aid funding is continuing to decline. The state, she said, used federal stimulus money to offset state funds, but now that the stimulus dollars are gone, the state is not replacing them.
Also a new scholarship program will allow parents of students with disabilities to send them to private schools. Superintendent Ann McVey said that could cost the district about $400,000 next year.
The district has gotten by, Melchi said, by making cuts. District spending is $3 million less than was projected in 2009.
Board member Steve Cernkovich noted that the state foundation aid contributes 22 percent of the district revenues, about half of what it once provided.
The district, Melchi said, has been working to reduce spending. In 2010 the district made over $1 million in cuts by not replacing teachers who left and reducing other expenditures. In 2011 the district closed Milton, reducing staff, but all through attrition.
Teachers have accepted a freeze on their base salaries, though step increases are still in place.
Melchi said the district would be in even more dire straits if the voters had not approved a $1 million emergency levy in November, 2010.
Still expenses continue to climb. Utilities, fuel and health insurance costs mean despite those savings the district continues to spend more than the revenue it brings in. For this year the district expects to spend $31.2 million while it is taking in $29.2 million.
The district is looking at a $1.5 million deficit by June 30, 2014.
Concerns about how the district's tight finances could affect school offerings were aired during the public comment section.
Seven speakers, university professors, university student, alumni and current high school students, came to the microphone to express their support for continuing German classes. Geoff C. Howes led off saying he wanted "to encourage the board to maintain the excellence of a strong German instruction."
His university colleague Christina Guenther followed saying that teaching German was important "in a region that has a German tradition."
"It would be sad not to offer German in a community that has names like Myers."
Board President Eric Myers said the fate of German classes has not been determined.
The concern arises with the retirement Linda Van Blaricom, who teaches German. Christa Bringman also teaches German as well as calculus.
McVey said only 50 students are signed up to study German next year. The district has offered German starting in the middle school continuing through German 5.
She said the district is looking at adding online language courses that could include Chinese, Arabic and Japanese and may include German. The district is investigating a program through the University of Oklahoma. That program would give students the additional option applying for Advanced Placement credit.
If that were the case Bringman would work in the lab when German students were there.
Next year the school will not offer German 1 in the middle school, McVey said. She added that the state regents are considering requiring that students take at least one, maybe as many as four, online courses during their high school careers. Languages would be a way of addressing this if that requirement would be implemented, she said.
Janelle Bishop, who is in her third year of German study, said that online courses could not replace having a fluent German speaker leading a class.
The program is more than about language, she said, it teaches about culture as well.
Alumni Libby Dulaney, who teaches German at Eastwood, credited the program with inspiring her to pursue her teaching career.
Another alumni, Kapil Melkote spoke to the board about the importance of maintaining the high school's Model United Nations program. The founding advisor of the 10-year-old program, Theresa Dunn, is retiring.
The program has won many state honors, he said, and inspired him to found the Collegiate Council on World Affairs at Ohio State University. Another alumni has been student body president at OSU and another is an intern at the State Department.
The Model UN "forces" participants, Melkote said, " to think differently about issues and learn about the world around them... to think globally."
He encouraged the board to maintain the supplemental pay for the advisor given the responsibility and time the program takes.
McVey said she attended a session and "was speechless" at the quality of what she saw. She said she was committed to continuing the program, but could not say whether the supplemental contract would be continued.