Proposed State Cuts Would Deliver 'Devastating' Blow to Westlake City Schools

Between 44 and 73 jobs may be eliminated in an effort to close the budget gap.

Westlake school officials are maneuvering on district, local and state levels to find a way to absorb $6.3 million in proposed state funding cuts over the next two school years. 

Superintendent Dan Keenan announced at Monday’s special budget meeting that he may need to collectively reduce or eliminate anywhere from 44 to 73 administrative, teaching, classified and exempt positions. 

On the operational side, he has proposed offering all-day kindergarten on a tuition basis, eliminating free field trips and cutting back on transportation expenses to bring it to about a 60/40 split in cuts to personnel and operations, respectively. 

“I may have to cut $3 million out of my budget for next year and beyond and I can’t sustain no new curriculum materials and no new computers forever,” he said. “When 85 percent of my budget is staff, I have to utilize staff cuts in order to have a sustained savings (to help balance the budget).”

Keenan has met and been in contact with concerned parents and citizens, Westlake teacher associations, the Board of Education, State Representative Nan Baker (R) and Senator Tom Patton (R) to see how he and district treasurer Mark Pepera can avoid a proposed 60 percent cut in state funding to the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Westlake City Schools budgets.

He plans to continue to meet with others like Karen Herzberger of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) and Amy Butcher of the Westlake Teachers Association (WTA) over the course of this week to discuss if any deals or concessions can be reached in regard to reducing staff compensation or eliminating positions. 

On the state level, school officials have been in regular contact with Baker and Patton in an attempt to prove their case to Ohio legislators that the proposed cuts to the district (71 percent or a $3.1 million reduction in state funding for next year alone) is too steep and represents an inequitable scenario. 

The cuts would slash the three sources of state funding the district receives, which are: basic aid, tangible personal property tax reimbursements and public utility reimbursements, Pepera said. 

These sources of revenue account for about 12 percent of the district’s annual $50 million budget and the cuts would shrink that percentage by about seven to eight points, Keenan said. 

According to Keenan, of all the tax dollars that are generated in Westlake on an annual basis, the district would only see about 1.5 cents, or 1.5 percent, on the dollar under the Governor John Kasich’s proposed budget. The other 96.5 cents would be redistributed to help fund other school districts and two cents would go to help pay the state’s $7 to $8 billion deficit. 

“We get the fact that we have high valuation, but we also want some of our state dollars to work for Westlake,” he said. “What’s very frustrating isn’t to see (our funding) reduced to fill this state deficit; it’s to see the wealth redistributed. We just don’t feel like this is the time to take pennies on the dollar from Westlake and give them to other districts when you’re trying to fill an $8 billion deficit.” 

Baker has heard his arguments and the Superintendant is prepared to ask for a 25 percent cap in state funding cuts versus the 71 percent that’s proposed for next year. 

Locally, officials may look into the possibility of  a new school levy to boost revenue and Keenan is encouraging the public to attend next week’s regular board of education meeting to offer opinions and insights. 

“As we have consistently done, we will continue to look at every possible way to offset expenses,” board president Thomas Mays said. “Schools are limited in ways to increase revenue, but we will be exploring all opportunities available to us.” 

“I think we have shown that we have been financially prudent and cautious in the past as we have extended our last levy well beyond the number of years that were promised to our taxpayers.”

Doug Voiers April 13, 2011 at 03:29 PM
The only 'Devastating Blow' around here has already been delivered to the taxpaying public through irresponsible goverment and rediculous spending hiring too many workers. This has finally reached a day of reconing. Americans are crushed under the burdens of government. Real U16 unemployment numbers hover around 18% . States and federal govt are going broke. All this while schools are obscenely bloated with teachers and administrators soaking up people's tax dollars. Studies show educational outcomes have not been enhanced by these hugely increased teacher/student ratios that have occured. We have easily twice the administrators needed. About time we cut all these unnecesary government jobs that are draining us dry and stop all the whining about so-called 'draconian cuts'. The jinx is up and taxpayers have had enough of being fleeced. It's also time the media do its job and be the guardian of the public interest like you used to be when integrity mattered. Stop promoting a Democrat Party big government agenda like some corrupt socialist propadandist!
Gail Golembiewski April 14, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Ok, as a parent of 2 children in the district one in 1st grade and one going into kindergarten it is disturbing to me that if a tuition based full day kindergarten is proposed, it is going to be detrimental to those families in the district that can't afford to pay for their children to attend all day kindergarten, where does that leave the children that will only have half a day, why are they being punished because their parents can't afford to pay tuition. Do we just let these students fall through the cracks and have them at a severe disadvantage? It smacks of discrimination.........
Liz AM April 24, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Gail, you may have attended the 4/18 school board meeting, or heard this info elsewhere, but Dr. Keenan explained there that the family of any student who qualifies for free lunch would not have to pay tuition for full day K. If the child receives a reduced rate for lunch, the family would pay a reduced tuition. Hopefully that would help many of the people in this situation. Many school districts offer half day K as their standard and provide full day with tuition; from what I understand it doesn't adversely affect the kids who attend half day. I think Dr. Keenan is trying find a solution to help all the parents (like you and me) who have been told for months that there would be full day K only to be told otherwise at this late date. I don't fault the school district for that, as they were planning for it in their budget as they knew it.
Westlake Resident-Joe Smith April 29, 2011 at 06:26 AM
Gail... Dr. Keenan has earned the respect of many in the community and the staff of the Westlake City Schools due to his hard work and presense in the schools. I have confidence that he will propose a plan where all can benefit. Remember that he committed to the full day program before the budget cuts set forth by Kasich. There are many school districts that opted out on waivers well before the budget announcement. Dr. Keenan is committed to excellence. If you have a gripe please contact Nan Baker and John Kasich. Dr. Keenan and Mark Pepera can only make recommendations based on funds available. It will be left up to the WCS BOE to decide. Last I counted there will probably be a 3-2 vote in favor of full day kindergarten. Mr. Voiers... if you are who I think you are, please remember the final product of the Westlake City Schools. It is a combination of good parenting and excellent educators that help create success in children into adulthood. If it is not your daughter that is greatly successful with her ambitions and creativity today please excuse the mistaken identity. If I am correct, I believe you have received a valuable return on your investment in the Westlake City Schools with your own child. Not to mention there is a direct correlation between excellent schools and higher property values. For all in Westlake look around. We have an excellent community which in part is due to excellent schools and excellent people that work in those schools.


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