Why are Parma Schools drowning in red ink?

Why are Parma schools drowning in red ink

PARMA, OHIO - Parma Schools are drowning in an ocean of red ink.

And its decision-makers are putting together an emergency plan to cope with an estimated $15 million shortfall over two years.

The cash crisis drew an overflow crowd of confused and unhappy students and taxpayers to a school board meeting Tuesday.

That meeting saw the surprise resignation of school board President Kathleen Petro, who left the stage to jeers and cheers.

The immediate challenge is to combat a $7 million deficit this year.

The emergency finance plan is a work in progress.

But the school board has proposed plans to cut arts and science programs, have significant layoffs and merge three high schools into one by closing Normandy High School and Valley Forge High School.

Superintendent Carl Hilling inherited this Rubik's Cube mess.

"I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but they overspent......It's like looking at a diamond. There are a lot of facets to it," he said.

Ex-Treasurer Dan Bowman and former Superintendent Jeff Graham left before all this hit the fan.

They have indicated they will have more to say after a renewal levy vote in November.

But the bottom line here is the bottom line.

In fiscal 2014, schools overspent by $3.3 million. In 2015, it was $6.3 million. And this year it is $4.6 million in the hole.

The blame for overspending or underestimating is being put on three categories: raises, money for charter schools and a purchase of Apple iPads for all student.

In a written parting message, Petro said the school board was told "we could afford " raises, and that the iPads for all students was "their only option."

She said "programs had no planned sustainability." In other words, no money to pay for them.

Emergency plans are now taking precedent over longer-range planning.

"When you are in the eye of a storm and got a lot of alligators chomping on your butt, you've got to think 'I got to get the alligators before I can do anything,' " Hilling said.

The school board has asked the state for more time to prepare an emergency plan.

School leaders are mounting an aggressive plan to promote the levy. That includes what may become an  emotional campaign presence at this week's Parma versus Normandy game.

There is another school board meeting Monday. And there will likely be demands for more answers and accountability about why so many miscalculated  choices were made..

Schools are counting on the renewal levy passing because that money is figured into it's present deficit reduction plan.

 

 

 

 


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