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Board plans cuts, seeks funds

Tom Jackson • Feb 3, 2014 at 1:44 AM

Facing financial pressures from more than one source, including less state aid and a decline in enrollment, Huron Schools plans to cope by making budget cuts but also by seeking new revenues, district superintendent Dennis Muratori says.

Muratori, who gave a “state of the schools” presentation Wednesday night at McCormick Junior High School, stressed he has no intention of lowering the school district’s academic standards or imposing undue hardships on students.

The superintendent made sure his audience noticed a poster he had propped up onstage, a graph showing that based on the various criteria in the state report card, Huron Schools is the top-ranking school district in Erie County.

And he listed the types of cuts he plans to avoid, even as he looks for ways to save money.

The new superintendent — he took over a little more than 180 days ago — said he opposes instituting “pay-to-play” fees for extracurricular activities. He opposes cutting busing for students, wants to avoid cutting advanced programming, wants to preserve fine arts programs and wants to keep extracurricular activities.

An audience of about 60 people showed up on a frosty night to hear the presentation. Muratori said he was pleased with the turnout and said it demonstrates the community’s commitment to education.

Muratori showed a series of slides and said the district has been deficit spending since 2011, including deficit spending of $1.4 million in 2013-14.

He said he believes a two-tiered approach of spending cuts and additional revenues is the responsible way to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars while maintaining high academic standards.

He’s working on a package of cuts to set before the school board soon.

“My intent is to have a proposal at our April board meeting” he said. “I will have conversations this month with the union leadership”

To work on the revenue side, Muratori said he intends to seek renewal of the 1.5-mill emergency levy, a move he says doesn’t raise taxes. The school district will explore grant options. And finally, it will go to the voters sometime in 2015 with an operating levy seeking new money. That will be the first attempt to obtain new revenues in about 10 years, he said.

Muratori spent part of his talk explaining why the district has come under financial pressure.

State funding has fallen from $2.6 million in 2005 to $2.3 million today. Tangible personal property taxes — taxes on equipment in buildings — is being phased out and is down from $1.8 million in 2008 to $920,000 today. Grants from the federal government went from $1.1 million in 2010 to $720,000 today. From 2005, there’s been a loss of $1.6 million in revenue from three sources.

Enrollment in Huron Schools has fallen from 1,662 in 2004 to 1,443 this year. After stabilizing for several recent years, it dropped again in 2013-14.

That decline of 219 students, about 13 percent, over 10 years has financial implications, as each student brings in close to $5,800 in revenue, he said.

Want to go?

• WHAT: Huron Schools superintendent Dennis Muratori and Huron city manager Andy White available for “Coffee Connection” meeting with residents

• WHEN: 9-10:30 a.m. Feb. 8

• WHERE: Berardi’s in Huron

• MORE: “Coffee on me, pastries on me,” Muratori said.

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