Manchester School District may lose millions in tax base, forcing major cuts, layoffs

Sale of power plants to blame
Posted at 12:32 AM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 00:47:50-05

MANCHESTER, Ohio - A Tri-State school district is preparing to cut more than $1.5 million per year from its budget.

That would lead to layoffs and major cuts in programs, but it has to be done, Manchester School District's superintendent says.

It's all connected to two power plants that have been a major source of funding for years.

When Duke Energy sold its interests in the Stuart and Killen coal-fired power plants in Adams County, they did so at a loss of $56 million. That means the equipment used to make that power was devalued,  and that's sending shock waves throughout the tax base.

Manchester Local Schools, which has 950 students and 100 staff members, has relied on revenue from the plants for years.

You can see the smokestacks from Stuart Station from one end of the school grounds and the Killen station from the other.

"Yes, it's going to have a major impact," said Dr. Charles Shreve, the schools superintendent.

"We're concerned with this $750,000 drop that we're going to have to deal with during the current fiscal year and the fact that we're looking at about a $1.5 million revenue loss for every fiscal year thereafter."

The district has a $3 million surplus that will lessen the blow through June 30, 2017, but Shreve says all bets are off after that.

"We get our job done by employing people so I would imagine staff reductions in the form of layoffs would unfortunately have to be looked at for next year," Shreve said.

What also worries Shreve and Adams County Auditor David Gifford is whether the other plant owners want to try to reduce the value of their shares.

"We have about an $11 million annual operating budget, so obviously to lose $5.5 million out of $11 million - we've lost 50 percent of our budget and really would be unable to operate next year.

Gifford says Adams County would immediately lose about $800,000 a year from its general fund. 

But new, lower valuations on the plants could bump that to $2.4 million and impact every county department.

"Probably cut back insurance for employees," Gifford said. "The sheriff's department would be impacted for safety - the children's home board, the senior citizens levy."

There have been plenty of rumors that both Stuart and Killen Stations would close, but Dayton Power and Light, which owns a majority interest in both, says there are no plans to do that at this time.