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Westlake Board of Education Splinters Amid Tough Budget Decisions

Administrators discuss tuition for all-day kindergarten and concessions from teachers' unions and a possible levy.

After seven hours of deliberation, discussion and argument, Monday’s Board of Education meeting was, at best, a non-starter as school officials couldn’t agree on much of anything. 

In front of a capacity crowd of more than 300 parents, teachers and residents in ’s cafeteria, board members splintered on two of   proposals to help absorb $3.6 million in proposed state cuts for the upcoming school year. 

The first proposal dealt with —OAPSE and the WTA— to either lay off or reduce pay for 68 Westlake City Schools employees. The move is projected to save about $2.7 million. 

“The unions came to me and said ‘How can we help?’ which isn’t something that happens every day,” Keenan said. "They’ve set workable parameters to negotiate on. I highly suggest we move forward on this but I need a consensus on a how to proceed.” 

Board President Tom Mays, Board Vice President Carol Winter and board member Andrea Rocco agreed with Keenan’s proposal; however, board members Tim Sullivan and Nate Cross said the plan would only prolong the ongoing budget dilemma by creating a drawn-out and contentious negotiation with the unions. 

The second proposal was to introduce all-day kindergarten on a tuition basis and charge $2,300 per student. The measure would help pay for new teachers and keep class sizes at manageable levels, Keenan said. 

Again, Cross and Sullivan sided against the superintendent, saying they needmore time to discuss the financials. Keenan and Treasurer Mark Pepera will move forward with the tuition plan on an internal basis as the board decides  whether to approve it. 

Alternatively, the superintendent is eyeing introducing a levy to boost revenue. He is headed to Columbus Tuesday to meet with legislators to try to persuade them to limit the district’s state cuts to 20 percent for next year. As it stands, the district faces a 76 percent reduction in state funding for 2011-12.

If Keenan and Pepera can achieve either of these goals, cuts to personnel and operations would be considerably less, Keenan said. 

Jim Betts, an Ohio lobbyist who came to speak on Governor John Kasich’s budget proposal, did have some optimistic news that could shift the state's economic landscape to positively benefit education funding. 

“As we see now today, revenues in Ohio have been surpassing the projections so they’re probably will be a carryover of somewhere in the neighborhood of $750 (million) to $800 million,” Betts said. 

“Those monies can be used in the next two years so the (Ohio) Senate will have an opportunity to look at that trend and perhaps also increase projections for the two years and therefore have a half-billion dollars or more to deal with in their decision-making.” 

To help increase revenue, Mays proposed advertising, sponsorships and naming rights for local businesses which could pay to have their names on a new school building, gymnasium or football field. He predicts his plan could generate revenue into the six figures and has the board’s backing to pursue it. 

The board’s next meeting is a work session that’s scheduled for May 9.

Carrie April 19, 2011 at 08:56 PM
As a parent and taxpayer, I am disappointed that Mr. Cross and Mr. Sullivan were not willing to meet with the unions. I feel they are doing a disservice to the community and taxpayers they state they represent by not hearing what the unions propose. As far as the all day tuition based kindergarten, it's obvious that the majority of the parents affected want the option. Even those parents who may not pick all day want to be given the option. So why vote no? Very frustrating.
Westlake Resident-Joe Smith April 20, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Cross and Sullivan have an obvious agenda. That is to jump on the Kasich bandwagon and bust unions. They are obviously using the BOE as a political stepping stone. Their special interest groups are the empty nesters and those who send their children to private schools. Over and over you will here them preaching how they are trying to save the tax payers money. I am a tax payer and welcome my money going to support the schools which in turn rais the value of my home and community. To Cross and Sullivan I say, GO AWAY! You are a speed bump on the highway of success.
ocscar acosta April 20, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Hi Westlake Resident, I hope you are a resident and not a teacher. I hear not "here" that the Westlake Schools have been teaching our fine students about spelling and a really cool tool called SPELL CHECK. You are a perfect example of natures incompetence.
Westlake Resident-Joe Smith April 20, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Sorry Oscar. Not to make excuses, but a typo can slip by at 12:17 am. Perhaps you can request PATCH to integrate a spell check into the script of the site? Actually I noticed the typo after I had posted but have not found how to edit a post.
Fran April 20, 2011 at 06:38 PM
And perhaps Ms. or Mr. Acosta could go back to school and learn about punctuation.
Jeff Tock May 18, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Joe, paying extra tax dollars does not insure real estate appreciation nor does it insure better schools. Let's cut some waste and fat out of the current system which I personally feel there is a lot of. However if you feel so strongly that more taxes will enhance your net worth you can get ahead of the game and make a personal donation. Everyone has an agenda Joe, including the other 3 BOE members. I don't see your political stepping stone theory either. I believe every public employee should be making an effort to spend my tax dollar efficiently.
Westlake Resident-Joe Smith May 18, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Look around and youwill see that where there is an Excellent school district you will find a community with greater or better home values. Mr. Tock... feel free to offer a solution rather than pointing out where you see problems. Where do you see the fat and waste? A huge problem is how taxes are redistributed out of Westlake to communities with a lesser property tax base. If this did not happen WCS would be in a much better situation. The problem is how the WCS are funded, not the managment or the employees.
David Simon May 25, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Since Cross and Sullivan joined the school board, they have made one thing abundantly clear: they have an agenda, and to hell with the children of Westlake. With the disservice they are perpetrating on the citizens of Westlake, particularly the students, I don't know how they can sleep at night.

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