In an emotional and complex school board meeting this past Monday, the top brass at Parma City Schools unveiled a plan to tackle a looming — and growing — budget deficit. What is now a $15-million hole, board members stated this week, could become a $60-million hole within four years if drastic steps aren’t taken now.
And so the proposed cuts include: Five schools being repurposed or closed entirely (Green Valley, Parma Park, Renwood, Hanna and Pleasant View), dozens of staffers being laid off and certain programs being cut from the balance sheets. How the cards fall precisely remains to be seen, — although, with such a budget disparity confronting board members, it’s hard to envision a path forward without at least some of the above taking place.
It’s a public morass in Parma this week, with parents and community members trying to figure out what led the city to this brink. The superintendent, for instance, said on Monday that even he hadn’t known of the magnitude of the district’s debt until this spring. He acknowledged how profoundly these cuts could impact thousands of current and future students in this seventh largest city in Ohio
Take the STEM program as an example. It’s an annual cost of $153,461 on the books — not necessarily a drop in the bucket — and it’s also a pathway toward university-tier education for many Parma students. (STEM, which gets talked about frequently in NPR news reports, stands for science, technology, engineering and math — the silos of a new American jobs economy and vital components of public education in the U.S.) That’s one proposed cut on the table.
Other proposals: eliminate all school field trips and double the pay-to-play fees for district extracurriculars. Those two measures alone indicate how different the Parma City Schools experience would be for future students. Combined, they would also level the balance sheets by nearly $400,000.
It’s a sure bet that the weeks to come will be filled with hearty public debate. The budget plan is due to the state in less than three weeks. The board will meet Oct. 4 and 10 at Parma High School.