The Akron school board on Monday talked perplexing finances, in anticipation of the five-year forecast and awarded construction contracts to patch a leaky Kenmore High School roof and complete the combined $62 million Firestone/Litchfield Community Learning Center.
The board approved $13,000 to Weatherproofing Technologies Inc. of Beachwood to repair a leaking gymnasium at Kenmore, one of about 10 schools untouched by a citywide school construction project.
Contracts for the combined Firestone/Litchfield project include: $37,818,800 to Dunlop & Johnston Inc. of Valley City for general trades; $10,276,235 to Speelman Electric of Tallmadge; $6,896,000 to the K Company of Akron for heating and cooling; $3,630,800 to Synergy LLC of Akron for plumbing; $2,524,876 to M. Campbell Contracting LLC of Stow for site work; and $709,990 to S.A. Comunale Co. of Barberton for fire protection.
After dispensing with general funds, the board heard from Treasurer Jack Pierson, who presented shifting possibilities for how the district’s financial outlook could shape up by the end of May when he submits the biannual five-year forecast, an educated assumption of the district’s financial health.
Two factors mystify projections this year.
The first is how educators count students.
The state next year will require Ohio public schools to count how many students should be at school, or enrollment, instead of how many students show up, or attendance. No longer will schools make a single, critical head count in October, known as count week, but instead submit periodic updates to the state throughout the year.
The change will force educators to more “actively” and aggressively update enrollment figures, Pierson said. This includes tracking down truant students, something the school has worked with authorities and court systems to do in the past.
“We’re looking to start that up again, hopefully in the fall,” Superintendent David James said of using truancy officers. Pierson added that the state should start notifying schools when families, who do not communicate with schools, enroll students elsewhere.
The second factor undermining a solid forecast is how many additional students will leave the city, enroll in charter schools or take public voucher money, deducted from Akron schools, to attend private schools.
When Pierson made his first five-year forecast in October, he projected 5,875 students leaving. That figure came in at 6,467 this month.
That means 400 additional students unexpectedly left the city and an additional 500 who still live in Akron now attend school elsewhere.
Based on updated enrollment projections, additional state funding — assuming the state does not arbitrarily increase funding through 2018 — is now expected to shrink from $29 million to $11 million.
Pierson said the numbers are not final. There’s still a state budget to be ironed out next summer, and he’s conservatively estimating that the state will increase, and not keep flat, Akron’s state funding by 1 percent each year, as opposed to more optimistic estimates of up to 3 percent increases used by other school treasurers.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.