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COLUMBUS -- Richland County school districts will lose approximately $2.7 million in operating funds by the end of fiscal year 2020, according to data released from the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.

The cuts come as part of a $300 million reduction statewide for Ohio's public school districts.

"Unlike the federal government, we have to balance our budget," DeWine said this week during a press conference. "If we do not make these cuts now, over the next two months, the cuts we would have to make next year would have to be more dramatic."

In Richland County, state funding was cut by between 1.5 and 7.7 percent, depending on the school district. For most area superintendents, the budget cuts come as no surprise. 

“We had anticipated and heard that there was gonna be cuts, we just didn’t know how much the cuts were going to be," said Stan Jefferson, superintendent of Mansfield City Schools.

Jefferson said the district's response to state funding cuts will be informed by adjustments in the five-year forecast, which was released last November. He added that no decisions will be made until there can be a discussion with school administrators, the district treasurer, the Mansfield School Employees Association and the board of education.

“It won’t be just one simple button that you’re going to hit that’s going to address," he said. “We are going to discuss a forecast on where we are at sometime in the next month or so.”

Tim Tarvin, the superintendent of Shelby City Schools, said he was also expecting a cut.

“Revenues have dipped all over the state. They have to balance their budget. I get it.”

Tarvin said he’s been in contant contact with principals and school board members over the past few months, including a three-hour meeting on Wednesday to discuss how the district will handle the financial blow.

“We’ve been doing things prior to the governor's announcement to put ourselves in a good spot in anticipation of possible cuts.”

At a board meeting in March, the school board was set to approve the purchase of two new school buses, but pulled the item off the agenda. The purchase of the buses would have cost the district $200,000.

Tarvin said the administration has a list of potential items that could be cut, but nothing is set in stone yet. 

“We’ve been financially sound for many years and that's a result of conservative spending,” he said. “We don’t feel like we have to make any drastic cuts at this point.

"We’re going to tighten our belts, watch our spending and be good stewards of people’s money.”

Madison’s outgoing interim superintendent, John Thomas, said his district has also been discussing ways to tighten the budget if cuts came.

“We’ve been talking about this now for two months,” Thomas said. “We have a list of things to consider but we haven’t made any definite decisions yet.”

Thomas added that dealing with the cuts will be unpleasant, but manageable. 

“It’s going to cause us problems, but it's not going to cause us problems we can’t deal with right now,” he said. “The district will survive. The kids will learn.

"We’ll continue to provide instruction. We’ll just have to do it differently than we’re doing now if we have less money.”

Nevertheless, Thomas expressed concern about whether the district will be able to renew its levy in a few years. He also stated that he fully expects the state to make further cuts to public school funding in fiscal year 2021.

“I would expect that we will see very, very large cuts because revenues in the state are going to continue to be depressed,” he said. 

The amount cut from each district varies.

"A school district’s relative wealth was taken into consideration for the state Budget reductions," explained Pete LuPiba, deputy director of the OBM. "Instead of an across the board reduction, the reduction was a per pupil amount based on a district’s wealth. Ohio’s poorest districts got relatively smaller reductions, and wealthier districts received relatively larger ones."

According to the OBM, the amount of funding lost by each of Richland County school's falls between one and two percent of each district's operating costs in fiscal year 2019. 

Lexington Local Schools treasurer Jason Whitesel said that while cuts will have to be made, the district is not in dire straits.

“Obviously almost half a million dollar reduction in our state funding is a significant impact,” Whitesel said. “It’s going to require conversations within the district looking for areas where we can find savings."

DeWine also announced that there will be a $55 million reduction in “other education budget line items,” which are special funds for specific purposes, rather than general operating costs. The details of those cuts have not yet been released.

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com