James A. Garfield School District Could Trim About $1.5 Million Annually, Performance Audit Finds

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Columbus – Bringing staffing, salaries and benefits in line with peer school districts will help James A. Garfield Local School District (Portage County) pare about $1.5 million annually from its budget over the next three years, according to a performance audit released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.

Even after curbing health insurance costs, trimming staff and temporarily freezing base salaries, the district will need to find an additional $219,000 in annual savings to avert projected deficits for 2021, the audit found.

The audit was undertaken after the district’s five-year forecast showed a $218,000 deficit developing in Fiscal Year 2019 and growing to nearly $4.2 million in Fiscal Year 2021.

“District officials will need to move resolutely to head off these large projected deficits,” said Auditor Yost. “These adjustments are never easy, but they are necessary to ensure the continued fiscal health of the district.”

The audit recommends that the district:

  • Bring the District’s health insurance cost in line with other Portage County governments by opting for a less costly plan design and increasing employee premium contributions to save $681,300 annually.
  • To bring staffing into line with peer averages and national benchmarks, eliminate the full-time equivalent of 3 clerical and 3 custodial positions to reduce costs by $279,300 a year.
  • Freeze base salaries for certificated staff for three years for a savings of $244,000.
  • Renegotiate the rental terms for the Park Avenue Intermediate School to save $24,500 a year.
  • Reduce the subsidy for extracurricular activities to the level of peer school districts to ease annual costs by $24,400.
  • Renegotiate collective-bargaining agreements to eliminate reimbursement for staff educational activities and save $25,600 annually.
  • Bring the bus fleet in line with industry benchmarks by eliminating one bus, saving at least $8,500 a year in salary and benefits.

The audit notes that the district still must seek opportunities to save an additional $219,000 annually. Options include eliminating all General Fund subsidies of extracurricular activities, cutting teaching staff, freezing salary step increases for three years or some combination of these.

The audit also recommended that the district develop a data-driven bus-replacement plan, as well as a transportation preventive-maintenance system.

The district should make more data and financial information available on its website and develop a strategic plan and a long-term financial plan, including a capital-improvement plan, auditors advised. They also recommended that these plans be linked to the formal budgeting process to improve decision-making.

A full copy of this report is available online.


The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies.  Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.

Beth Gianforcaro
Press Secretary