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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

Akron Public Schools Face Deficit Under COVID-19, State Funding Cuts

Akron Public Schools' five year forecast shows a deficit resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. [ideastream file photo]
Akron Public School

Akron Public Schools is facing a $3.5 million deficit at the end of this academic year, with even more financial problems to come.

The school district’s five year forecast, presented to the school board Monday night by Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton, predicts the deficit will jump to roughly $15 million by June 2021.   

The board is starting discussions regarding the size of a proposed schools levy and when to place it on a ballot, Pendleton said, but said first it will “engage the community in that conversation before putting a levy on the ballot.”

A big loss in state funding due to coronavirus budget cuts is a huge factor in Akron’s projected deficit, Pendleton said.

Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced a $300 million cut in state funding to Ohio’s K-12 schools as part of statewide pandemic-related budget cuts. That translates to a $3.5 million dollar cut for Akron Public Schools. However, Pendleton expects bigger cuts by the state through the next academic year. During his presentation to the board, Pendleton modeled a 10 percent reduction in state funding to determine his deficit projections.

Akron Public Schools is expecting nearly $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to be allocated for coronavirus-related expenses, which Pendleton said will help with some of costs the district incurs due to COVID-19.

“Certainly we have additional technology expenses and PPE expenses,” said Pendleton. “We will have additional unemployment expenses. So that $9.8 million dollars will evaporate pretty quickly.

“We issued about 5,000 W-2s last year, many of whom are hourly and part-time or substitute employees. Under the expanded unemployment language, they qualify, or many of them qualify for unemployment. So we will need to pay a portion of those unemployment claims and benefits,” Pendleton said. “That's an area the budget we had not planned on.”

The pandemic is causing so many financial unknowns for the school district that Pendleton said he expects to present an updated financial forecast to the school board every month, rather than twice a year.

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”