Treasurer, superintendent propose $1 million-plus in reductions

by Laura Bednar

March 18 board of education meeting

Treasurer Kyle Kiffer and Superintendent Casey Wright created a plan to save the Nordonia Hills City School District over $1 million. Administrators were tasked with cutting the budget at the February board of education meeting and met with department heads and school leaders to advance the decision-making process.

Wright said they exceeded the $1 million reduction goal by $548,120. “The reason we beat the number is because we started right away,” said Wright, noting reductions were planned for this year’s budget.

Of the savings, $548,719 came from the current budget, and $414,013 came from the 2024-25 budget. Through attrition, $585,387 was saved by reducing nine staff positions.

The board voted unanimously in favor of making immediate cuts to save the $548,719.

“I appreciate the hard work, but I know how hard people are going to have to work just to continue to do the good work they do,” said board member Amy Vajdich of the budget plan.

Kiffer said personnel costs are 75% of the district’s expenses, followed by 16% for purchased services, such as contracts with outside agencies, and 9% for other expenses like buildings and department budgets. The cost-cutting project, Kiffer said, started with the smallest percentage area first.

The superintendent’s budget was cut by $33,054 this year in areas including human resources and public relations. Immediate reductions in the treasurer’s budget included $40,937 in legal fees, purchased services and travel costs. The curriculum budget was reduced by $240,555 this year by limiting spending on software materials, classroom supplies and professional services.

Kiffer said the district eliminated purchased services used during the pandemic that no longer are needed. Just over $32,000 was saved in educational services this year. Wright said much of it is funded through grants.

Through reductions in office supplies, maintenance costs, equipment and travel, the business department saved $49,928 this year. Wright said the department also opted to repair some equipment instead of buying new.

The technology budget was reduced immediately by $29,800. Some funds are being allocated towards a copier project, which will reduce paper costs. Another area affected was teacher professional development. Wright said teachers will still attend conferences and other learning opportunities, but as individuals instead of large groups.

Nordonia High School had an immediate savings of $30,185; Nordonia Middle School, $27,223; Lee Eaton Intermediate, $25,000; Rushwood Elementary, $12,372; Ledgeview Elementary $17,275; and Northfield Elementary, $10,179. Individual school savings were achieved through supplies reductions, staff attrition and not replacing open positions.

Wright said the district will also consider layoffs. “This is the most challenging, because it’s not something Nordonia has done in the past,” he said. One example was reducing the number of teachers if an elective high school class is less popular.

“It can’t be cutting alone that’s going to get us through this,” said Wright. “It has to be a combination of cutting our budget, which we will do every year, and increased revenue. There is no way to do it by just one side.”

Board discussion

Board members Jason Tidmore and Matt Kearney expressed concern over pay-to-participate fees for students in sports. “[The fee] is structured despite the number of people who are on the team,” said Tidmore, noting that there are some options for low-income families.

Kearney said he would like to see the district’s Financial Activities Communications Team review how the fees could be offset or changed.

Tidmore also toured district buildings and said there are outdated areas, boilers in elementary schools in need of replacement and high school restrooms that need renovations.

Tax complaints

Nordonia Hills Schools filed two tax complaints against property in the district: 9456 S. Freeway Dr. in Macedonia and the property block of 8253 through 8261 Golden Link Blvd. in Northfield.

Ohio House Bill 126 limits a district’s ability to challenge property value increases or decreases. An exception is if property is sold for both 10% and $500,000 in excess of county-appraised value. Both properties were recently sold. The complaint asks the county to increase the amount of tax revenue the district receives to match the sale price.

At a March 27 special meeting, the board approved technology upgrades for school buildings: $34,435 for fiber optic installation by NEOnet and $699,091 for core networking equipment and UPS system installation by CDW-G. Both projects will be submitted for a 40% rebate through the FCC Federal E-Rate program, which provides funding for internet access, telecommunications services and related equipment. ∞