By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Akron school board agreed on Monday to spend about $300 million on operations for the 2010-2011 school year almost 2 percent more than last year.
Wages and fringe benefits comprise three fourths of the district's general fund expenses.
Wages (almost $159 million) are down from last year because of the elimination of nearly 110 employees, including 84 teaching positions. Resignations and retirements allowed the district to bring back most of the teachers who were on the layoff list last spring.
Those teachers will return at their current salaries, which typically are less than what retiring teachers were making.
However, rising health insurance costs contributed to most of an 8 percent increase in benefit costs, which will total almost $66 million, said Jack Pierson, the district's treasurer.
This is the last year of the state's two-year budget.
District treasurers are trying to guess what Columbus where a new governor might be taking office in January will do with education funding.
About 4 percent of Akron's operating money (and about 7 percent of its state aid) is coming from federal stimulus dollars that run out at the end of this year.
If the federal money isn't renewed and the state can't replace it with its own revenue, Akron could be looking at a $10.6 million cut.
The forecast now projects an $8 million deficit in the 2011-2012 school year, which treasurer Pierson believes can be overcome.
But the following year, he is projecting a $54 million hole in the budget.
Last year, the teachers' union agreed to roll over its contract one year, freezing the base pay while allowing scheduled years of service and education pay bumps to continue.
This year, the union and the district have deferred to an outside party to propose solutions to unresolved issues in contract negotiations that began in April.
The current contract, which expired June 30, will stay in force. The fact finder will hear proposals from both sides on Oct. 13.
The total appropriation of all funds for this fiscal year, including $120 million for capital projects, is $559 million, down almost $10 million from last year's appropriation.
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.
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