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Spending cuts would reach $9.5 million if voters don’t approve May levy, Strongsville school officials say

February 26, 2019

Spending cuts would reach $9.5 million if voters don’t approve May levy, Strongsville school officials say

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- The Strongsville schools would cut another $3.3 million from the district’s annual operating budget -- in addition to the $1.1 million in reductions already planned -- if voters don’t approve a new 5.9-mill tax on May 7.

And, if voters fail to pass a new tax levy by May 2020, the district would slash an additional $5.1 million from the budget, for a total of $9.5 million in operating cost reductions.

Under the phase 2 cuts, which would go into effect if the May levy fails, more than 14 teachers would lose their jobs. The district would also let go 27 members of its support staff, 33 athletic coaches, 29 contractual workers and about two administrators.

The district also would eliminate bus transportation for Strongsville High School juniors and seniors and would provide bus transportation for Strongsville Middle School pupils only if they live at least 1½ miles from the school. The current limit is 1 mile.

Under the phase 3 cuts, which would go into effect if a levy isn’t approved by May 2020, nearly 37 additional teachers would lose their jobs. The district would also let go at least 43 additional support staff members and another three administrators.

Meanwhile, the district would eliminate all bus transportation for high school pupils. The distance limit for bus transportation would increase to 2 miles for middle school pupils and from 1 mile to 1½ miles for elementary school pupils.

Schools Superintendent Cameron Ryba laid out the potential cuts Feb. 21 before the Strongsville school board. He said the budget reductions would provide another three years of financial stability, but leave the district a shell of what it is now -- with pupils sitting in study halls instead of in classrooms or taking part in extracurricular activities.

“I believe our kids deserve a positive future,” Ryba said at the board meeting. “They deserve a bright outlook. But the community has to decide what they want Strongsville City Schools to look like and what our future will be.”

Ryba said the 5.9-mill levy, if approved May 7, would generate $9.3 million annually in revenue and, accompanied by phase 1 cuts of $1.1 million, keep the district financially stable through the 2025-2026 school year. It would cost property owners $17.21 a month for every $100,000 in home valuation.

Here are partial lists of what the district would cut under the phase 2 and phase 3 reductions. For complete lists, see the Strongsville schools website or watch the Feb. 21 school board meeting on the schools’ YouTube page.

Phase 2 cuts would eliminate:

Student councils at the high, middle and elementary schoolsMusical choreography director, pit director and vocal director positions; freshman and sophomore class advisers; two faculty managers; a Key Club adviser; three weight room supervisors; a marching band assistant; and an assistant football coach at the high schoolAll English and math intervention courses at the high schoolA special-education aide at the middle schoolOne of two seventh-grade girls’ volleyball, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball teams at the middle school levelAn intervention specialist position at the elementary schoolsDistrict-paid transportation for all pupil groups and clubs, including the marching band and show choirRecordings of district events for local cable TV, due to the elimination of the coordinator of audio-visual position.

Also, the district would:

Increase class-size minimums to 20 pupils at the high school, except for special-education courses, and increase the average class size to 30 pupilsIncrease the cost of pay-to-participate by $50 for each sport, to $250 for high school pupils and $150 for middle school pupils, with a family cap of $750Raise monthly preschool tuition by $10 to $150Delay the purchase of new technology, including software, firewall upgrades and iPads for special-education classroomsIncrease the musical instrument rental fee from $30 to $50 a yearReduce custodial staffing by 24 hours at the district officeFreeze the pay of the superintendent, treasurer and all administrators.

Phase 3 cuts would eliminate:

Band director, show choir choreographer, orchestra director, another marching band assistant and three faculty-manager positions at the high school, with the band likely no longer marching, and converting to a performance courseAll freshman athletic teams at the high schoolSelected courses in geometry, pre-medical health and sports management, Advanced Placement computer science, foreign language, health-physical education and College Credit PlusContracts for all instrumental, vocal and orchestra directors, along with all musical performances outside the school day, at the middle schoolAll remaining seventh- and eighth-grade athletic teams at the middle school level One intervention specialist position and one guidance counselor position at the middle school levelFifth-grade band and orchestra and services for gifted pupils at the elementary schoolsPayment to school board members for attending meetings.

Also, the district would:

Increase maximum class sizes in second and third grade to up to 30 pupilsClose buildings after hours to school and outside groups.

Tracy Joniak, of Coopers Run in Strongsville, told the board Feb. 21 that the cuts seemed especially hard on the district’s music programs. She said the reductions would leave six instrumental music directors overseeing 800 pupils, while other programs -- including ROTC, physical education and the varsity football squad -- would have plenty of instructors and coaches.

“It looks and feels like the district is balancing the budget on the backs of the band and orchestra kids,” Joniak said.

Ryba said the cuts were designed to affect each school program as little as possible. For example, the phase 1 cuts would include a reduction of 2.4 staffing positions, but all music programs would survive.