Westlake Board of Ed Opts for 5.4-Mill Levy for November Ballot

Failure could mean eliminating 30 additional teaching position and additional cuts.

Westlake Board of Education. Photo credit: Patch file photo
Westlake Board of Education. Photo credit: Patch file photo

The Westlake Board of Education approved placing a 5.4-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot at July 30 meeting.
If approved, the levy would cost a homeowner $15.75 per month per $100,000 of market value.

In May, a 5.9-mill levy failed by just 44 votes. After the narrow defeat the district opted not to seek an August ballot, but made about $1 million in cuts and sought community feedback about how best to proceed.

The district has already cut $5 million over the past three years, the equivalent of 10 percent of its budget.  

This year, cuts included eliminating 19 positions and further reducing transportation services: No one living within 1 mile of their home school will receive transportation services in the coming school year.

The district is taking measures to control costs, including changes to employee insurance and a move to a health care purchasing consortium that saved more than $1 million annually. Last year, a 5 percent pay reduction was instituted for all new administrators. Earlier this year, teachers agreed to a 0 percent pay scale increase and a 2.5 percent decrease in the second year of the new contract, saving more than $5 million. Recently, classified staff agreed to a two-year wage freeze. All employees’ insurance contributions rose by 50 percent for the first time.

“This levy is critical for the future of Westlake Schools,” said Westlake Board of Education President Thomas Mays. “We listened to the community and we believe this is our best option to keep Westlake excellent.”

After community input, the November levy request was reduced to 5.4 mills and would be the first operating levy in seven years. The levy will allow current programming to remain.

“Our schools reflect our community’s values as defined through our Continuous Improvement Plan,” Superintendent Dr. Daniel J. Keenan Jr. said. “Great schools make great communities. We understand the importance of providing the schools our community expects while being fiscally responsible. Even with this levy, Westlake will remain in the bottom 25 percent of school taxes in Cuyahoga County and will ensure great schools for a great community.”

If the levy fails in November, Dr. Keenan indicated he will recommend another $2.2 million in cuts, which may include eliminating 30-plus teaching positions and seven to 10 non-teaching positions; imposing additional transportation cuts; eliminating access to school buildings after hours; either significantly increasing tuition for all-day kindergarten or eliminating all-day kindergarten; reducing athletics, music and arts offerings or imposing significant pay-to-participate costs; cutting AP offerings; and delaying or eliminating International Baccalaureate programs.

The Westlake Schools have consistently been recognized as one of the top districts in Ohio. Of the nine Ohio school buildings recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2013, two are part of the Westlake City Schools.
Joseph Smith August 20, 2013 at 11:02 AM
Chris, I am in complete agreement with your statement of “no on the levy”. Just a reminder that if teacher’s were paid a competitive salary then we would not need any cuts; including pay-to-play. Nobody is against athletic program, but the district must stay within its budget. 85% of the budget are salaries and benefits. Westlake salaries average $75,000 per teacher. This compared to between $58k and $68k for all of the neighboring districts. All districts are excellent. Three of the districts have higher ODE scores than Westlake and four of the neighboring districts have a higher % of master’s degrees. All that at between $1.5m and $4m less annually than Westlake!
LO August 21, 2013 at 10:07 AM
There is a new post for levy issue. It appears it has received a lot of attention. We are getting the word out. For the vote NO ON TAX LEVY.
Jake Nabookney September 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Gail I went to the wlake.org sight. There were NO CORRECTIONS OF FACTS SIGHTED at www.educatewestlake.org! The highest average compensation for teachers on the westside of Cleveland is not addressed. On average, Westlake teachers receive 10% higher compensation that the NEXT highest district on the westside. Not only did I not see a plan to reduce Westlake teacher compensation to the average of other west side districts, I did not even see an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that teacher compensation is a problem the School District and the Board intend to address. What the Westlake School District intends to do with the additional $5.2 million is not addressed. The site's assertion Westlake has the "lowest tax rate" is misleading, at best. Westlake's tax rate is low because the tax base is the HIGHEST on the west side of Cleveland. By virtue of the Board neither addressing the teacher compensation issue nor how they intend to use the additional $5.2 million (over the $2.2 million in cost reduction if the levy does not pass), it is obvious the District intends to use the additional $5.2 million to raise teacher compensation when the teacher contract comes up at the end of this school year. This levy is not about the children. This levy is about increasing the compensation of relatively overpaid teachers. Jake


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