Loss of AEP means $1.2M a year

WATERFORD – As the Wolf Creek Local school district prepares to face the hand it’s being dealt by the pending closure of the last unit of American Electric Power’s local plant, Superintendent Bob Caldwell says a new levy isn’t in the cards.

The district will react to the loss of $1.2 million a year in property tax revenue – with half that sum going away in fiscal 2016 and the full amount in 2017 – by becoming more frugal and changing the way it operates, he told board of education members during Monday’s regular meeting at Waterford High School.

“One of our options is not to go to the voters who are losing their jobs,” Caldwell said. “We’ll have to prove to them that we can live within our means. And we will do it.”

AEP announced earlier this month that it would be closing the fifth and final unit of the plant at the end of 2015. The company is already in the process of shutting down units 1 through 4 by June of that year to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

One option for the fifth unit had been to switch it from coal-fired to natural gas-fueled, but a company spokeswoman said previously that the total cost of compliance and revamping unit 5 would be about $61 million. That, along with market factors, led to the decision to shutter the rest of the plant.

Caldwell said the district is already efficient and cautious with its money, but it would have to do even more as it loses more than $1 million from a budget that this year is projected to spend $7.1 million. He said that could lead to larger class sizes, and also pointed to efforts to obtain decommissioned computers and furniture from businesses as opposed to buying new.

“Even more of those kinds of things will happen,” he said. “We’ll have to tighten the reins even more.”

In other business:

– The board unanimously approved hiring Kim Huck as the secretary at Waterford Elementary School – the first person other than Eva Ball to hold that title in nearly 40 years.

Ball quietly retired at the end of the previous school year after 38 years of service to the district.

“She put in her retirement letter that she’d never had an unkind word said to her by any employee of the Wolf Creek Local school district,” Caldwell said. “We believe that was a direct (result) that she’d never said an unkind word to anyone in her 38 years.”

Huck has been with the district 22 years and most recently served as a Title I reading aide, in addition to being the district’s education management information system coordinator and working in the elementary school office alongside Ball. With federal Title I funding being cut and the expected loss from the closure of unit 5, Caldwell said Huck may retain some of those duties with no replacement being hired.

Caldwell said he advised Huck to make the job her own and not try to follow exactly in her predecessor’s footsteps.

“Don’t think for one second that anyone can be Mrs. Ball,” he said. “I say that because 38 years can’t be replaced.”

– The board approved lunch prices and school fees for the upcoming year. Treasurer Rachel Miller said the only change was lunch prices increasing by 5 cents.

“And that’s because of the federal … lunch program that requires you to do it,” she said.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires districts to raise their price by a minimum of 5 to 10 cents a year until they reach a threshold where the price is at least equal to the amount of reimbursement the district receives for free and reduced lunches.