CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee Board of Education members discussed financial and space-related concerns during a special meeting held Friday, May 29. The meeting was broadcast live via YouTube.
Treasurer Lori Green delivered a presentation on the school district’s five-year financial forecast, revealing revenues for the district had fallen by over $600,000 since 2019, and are expected to drop an additional $1.3 million in 2021. Gov. Mike DeWine announced $300 million in state budget cuts for K-12 education on May 5, citing economic hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, property and income tax levies meant to fund general operations for the Preble Shawnee school district – as well as to fund construction of a new K-5 school building – were defeated at the polls in April, potentially leaving the district in tight financial circumstances.
“The biggest piece that we’re going to have to contend with over the next several years is how much money we’re taking in vs. how much is going out,” Superintendent Matt Bishop said. “Obviously spending on average $2.2 or $2.3 million over what we bring in can’t continue.”
Bishop stressed that one of two things could happen as a result.
“We either have to raise revenue – meaning we’d need a levy – or reduce expenditures, or some combination of the two,” Bishop said. “Until there’s an end to this, we can’t keep going down the track as if it’s business as usual.”
Board members stated that the district has decided to suspend textbook purchases until 2022, which should lead to a savings of approximately $130,000. They also won’t have to bring in tutors to work with students who scored below a certain percentile on state-mandated tests, as those tests were waived for the 2020-21 school year as a result of Covid-19.
The board moved in March and April to approve $6.4 million in expenditures to fund renovations to the Junior and Senior High, including upgrades to the facility’s lighting, electrical, HVAC, fire suppression, and security systems. Despite the failure of the levies, however, board members have made it clear that they still plan to close down West Elkton Intermediate School.
“We’re still going to have to come to some solution that brings us down to one elementary school building,” Bishop said during council’s April 9 meeting. “The only alternative to a new facility is to get us all into one spot and do what we can to improve that facility with the tax dollars that we have available to us.”
This could mean that additional classroom space will be needed in Camden. During the public participation portion of Friday’s meeting the possibility of using Board of Education offices for classroom space was broached.
“All ideas are on the table,” Bishop said.
Finally, the board approved a new contract with Eaton-based Gebhart Counseling Solutions. Per the terms of the contract, one full-time counselor will be stationed at the Junior and Senior High during the coming school year, while another will divide their time between that facility and Camden Elementary. Funding from Medicaid and the Preble County Mental Health Recovery Board will pick up a substantial portion of the cost under the new contract.
“We’re spending the same money, but doubling the amount of service to each school,” Bishop said.
The next regular meeting of the Preble Shawnee Board of Education will take place Thursday, June 25 at 6 p.m.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish