Boardman Local School District’s board and administrators have gone into a watch mode as they stay current in what is coming down from the state in regards to school funding. Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said state cuts are coming, but the end result is still up in the air.
“The state keeps changing things,” Lazzeri said. “There will be cuts from the state. We just don’t know exactly what they will be.”
Unlike neighboring Poland and Canfield, who have been forced to go on the ballot this year with new levies, Boardman at this point has managed to stay off the ballot. Lazzeri said everything that can be done to work within the present budget is being done.
“We are trying to work with teachers for a reasonable solution to the situation,” Lazzeri said. “If we cut teachers according to seniority, we are getting rid of our newer teachers who make less.”
He said one way to lower costs is through retirement. The teaching staff in Boardman has until April 29 to declare if they are taking retirement this year. Right now, the average teacher’s salary in Boardman is at $55,118, which is lower than the state average of $56,995. Lazzeri gave the hypothetical example that if there are teachers eligible for retirement and making $60,000 a year, that retirement would allow the district to pay two younger teachers at $30,000.
“It’s a case where one senior teacher can actually save the jobs of two younger teachers,” he said.
While Lazzeri doesn’t enjoy losing any teachers to retirement, he does feel that Boardman has some of the best teachers around.
“We are fortunate to have some of the best teachers and school leaders in the nation,” he said. “Their focus on improving student achievement and providing our children with the best education possible is second to none in the state. The dedication of our teachers, administration and support staff should make every citizen of Boardman proud to call themselves Spartans.”
As to how the schools got into this cutting board mess, he said the state is cutting the school foundation and the personal property tax that was earmarked to come back to local entities.
“Now the state is keeping it all,” he said. “That amounts to a $4.5 million to $4.8 million loss over the next two years. That’s a lot of money.”
Does it mean a school levy for Boardman voters? Not in the short term. Lazzeri said the last school levy was passed eight years ago and the school board promised to make it last five years.
“This is the longest we’ve ever gone,” he said. “We promised the taxpayers in 2003 that it would last five years and it has lasted eight.”
Over the coming year, the board will attempt to continue its thrifty ways. In fact, Lazzeri has a school team comprised of board members, administrators, teachers and support staff who are constantly looking for ways to further save money without negatively impacting the quality of education in Boardman.
“In the past eight years, there have been over $8 million in savings realized out of an annual budget of $42 million,” Lazzeri said. “Our team continually discusses savings opportunities for the district.”
He said the bottom line is that school districts throughout the state are still watching what happens at the state level. It is still not set in stone exactly how the state will affect the schools yet, but all districts know cuts are coming and plans have to be made to trim budgets and keep afloat.
“As we learn more in the coming weeks and months, the board of education and administration will continue to update the community regarding the impact of state cuts on the Boardman Schools,” Lazzeri said. “We will continue to evaluate all expenditures within the district and do everything within our capabilities to ensure that we do not negatively impact the quality of the education we provide to our students -– your children.”