Cuyahoga Falls City School District Could Save $5.5 million annually, Performance Audit Shows
Columbus – Cuyahoga Falls City School District could save $5.5 million annually and avoid a projected 2023 deficit of more than $22 million by adopting the recommendations of a performance audit released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
Recommendations for the Summit County school district include reducing staff, trimming employer costs of health care to the county average for school districts, and renegotiating a collective bargaining agreement provision.
“The district’s current financial trajectory obviously is unsustainable,” Auditor Yost said. “District leaders will have to make some very tough decisions to put the district back on a solid financial foundation. This performance audit provides them with the analysis to help them make those decisions.”
What to do with the remaining proceeds of the November 2017 emergency levy is one such tough decision. This five-year emergency levy is projected to raise $3.6 million annually or $18 million over the life of the levy and the performance audit encourages district leadership and the community to come together on how best to use the funds in light of the pending deficit.
Voters approved the levy with the understanding that the district would implement a spending plan for capital improvements, technology, curriculum, human resources and contingency planning.
However, under state law, emergency levy revenue is not restricted to a specific purpose, but can be used for any emergency need faced by the district, including to avoid an operational deficit. Simply postponing the purchase of new buses with emergency levy revenue, the district could free $810,000 that could be used to help mitigate the deficit. This, in turn, could reduce the scope of the spending cuts necessary to achieve fiscal stability over the forecast period.
In addition to determining how best to make use of available resources, the district will also need to consider options to curb spending. The largest savings – nearly $2.6 million a year – could result from eliminating the equivalent of 31.5 full-time staff positions, including 20 general education teachers, as well as art, music and physical education teachers. Doing so would generate cost savings while bringing the districts staffing in line with peers.
Reducing the employer cost of health insurance to the average for Summit County school districts could save slightly more than $1.5 million. Renegotiating a contract provision concerning the writing of individualized education plans could save $166,500 annually.
Even with these savings, the district still would need to further reduce spending by an annual average of more than $1.3 million. The audit provides the district with several options that could be combined in a variety of ways to achieve these additional savings:
- Eliminate an additional 16 general education positions for a savings of nearly $1.4 million annually.
- Make a 6 percent across-the-board staff reduction for a savings of nearly $1.4 million.
- Freeze base and step pay for two years for a savings of nearly $1.8 million a year.
- Eliminate the General Fund subsidy for extracurricular activities to reduce spending by more than $812,000 annually.
The emergency levy generates $3.6 million annual and redirecting less than half of that resource to address the deficit would likely allow the district to avoid these additional reductions.
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 6,000 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.