Tax valuations put APS in deeper debt
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education learned April 23 the district faces a $24 million deficit instead of the previously projected $22 million.
APS Treasurer Jack Pierson said he knew the local residential tax revenue would be down this year, given the state of the economy. What he hadn’t projected was the size of the loss in commercial/industrial tax revenue, he said. Following a recent triennial Summit County update on local tax valuations, Pierson said the district now finds itself facing a $24 million deficit instead of the previously projected $22 million.
The treasurer’s office needs to update its five-year financial forecast by the end of May, Pierson said. The district is required to balance its budget by the end of the fiscal year, June 30. That means coming up with another $24 million worth of staff, services and/or supplies to eliminate, he said.
Superintendent David James said he and other district officials would finalize the numbers and present an update on the extent of the necessary budget reductions at the board’s next meeting May 7.
At the board’s March 5 meeting, after board members voted to close Barrett Academy and Essex and Rankin elementary schools, James proposed a series of additional cost-cutting measures that included the possible elimination of middle school sports and foreign languages, along with elementary school band and orchestra.
Two music teachers were on hand April 23 to protest the proposed music cuts.
Alissa Fullen, who teaches instrumental music to children in fifth through 12th grades in the Garfield cluster, said research shows that cutting elementary instrumental music results in a 65 percent decrease in high school music participation within four years.
In addition, she said, studies show that “if you lose them at the bottom, you don’t get them back.”
Besides the loss of the musical training, she and Leslie Madden, Garfield band director, pointed out that students who are involved in music generally score higher on academic tests than do nonmusical students, as studies have shown for years.
Fullen proposed that instead of eliminating elementary instrumental music, the APS should let fifth-grade students choose among choir, band or strings to take in place of the general music class that they now all take.
In other business, the board accepted a check for $10,000 from Terry Bishop, philanthropic manager of the Dominion (East Ohio) Foundation. The money will be used for the summer bridge program for the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) High School that will open in the Central-Hower building next fall.
The bridge program, James explained, will start this summer and help entering STEM High School students who didn’t have the advantage of going to the STEM middle school.
The $10,000 will be matched with funds from a grant from the GAR Foundation. The school board last month accepted a GAR Foundation award of $150,000 for the STEM school.
Christine Mayer from the foundation explained that it has pledged up to another $650,000 as a challenge grant, to match any other grants for the STEM school that are made to the district in the next three years.
The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for May 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway in Downtown Akron.
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