Prospective cuts spelled out at Lakewood forum
HEBRON – Let’s face it, $4.4 million is a lot of money, especially when trying to slash that amount from a school district budget, said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault.
He spoke to a near-capacity crowd at the Lakewood High School auditorium Oct. 30, which was full of district residents wanting to know more about the additional 9.9 mill school levy appearing on the November 2 ballot. “I kept adding more, and more, and more (cuts),” said Gault.
Most people attending the community forum wanted to know what would be cut from the budget should the levy fail again in November. Gault spelled it out. He said more than 70 positions would be cut, including the following:
• More than 40 certified
• Five administrative
• Two to three central office
• Four clerical staff
• Three library technicians
• Four maintenance workers
• One mechanic
• One guidance counselor
• One health and safety
• Nine educational support
Gault said additionally many programs would be eliminated and two district buildings would be closed:
• Close Hebron Elementary and the District Offices
• Eliminate all bus transportation for grades nine through 12
• There would be a twomile walk radius for any bus transportation
• Eliminate vocational classes, foreign language, and health classes at middle school
• Integrate ar t, music, and physical education into curriculum in grades K through 8
• Cut the career-based intervention program at the high school
• Eliminate all co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, which would eliminate all supplemental contracts for coaches, directors and advisors
• Eliminate any activities in the buildings after school hours
• Reduce the school day to state minimums: 9 through 12=7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., K through 8=8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
• Student teacher ratios would be K through 4=25:1, 5 through 12=30:1 or more if needed
• Cut work-achievementvalues education classes at high school
• Cut advanced placement classes at high school
• Reduce all elective classes at high school to minimums to meet graduation requirements
• Reduce graduation requirements from 22 credits to 20, which is the state minimum
Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer explained that if Hebron Elementary and the administration buildings are closed, administrative services would likely move to the Jackson Intermediate building “on the hill.” The building would also house pre-school through the first grade. Grades 2 through 4 would inhabit the other Jackson Intermediate building and the middle school would house grades 5 through 8. Ettenhofer said classes would expand to roughly 30 students per teacher to create more space in each building. “That’s the preliminary picture,” he said.
During the forum, school board and administration members answered public questions. Some of the questions were submitted ahead of time and others were fielded from the audience.
Here are a few of the submitted questions:
Question: Why can’t the staff take pay cuts?
Answer: Lakewood’s staff consists of two organized unions with negotiated contracts and an administrative staff. The district’s most recent financial records indicate nearly 80 percent of Lakewood’s budget is spent on salary and benefits. This is lower than most school districts, but it’s an absolute consideration to look at staffing levels, staffing performance, and staffing costs. School board members, along the superintendent and treasurer’s advice, negotiate contracts agreements every two years and in some cases will approach these groups as needed to discuss contract adjustments including pay freezes and pay cuts.
These efforts have been on-going and last year prior to the start of fiscal year 2011, both organized unions, administrative exempts employees, superintendent, and treasurer all had a zero salary adjustment (excluding step) for this school year.
Most certified staff continued their own education and skill development to include advanced degrees. These degrees enhance students’ learning experience but also support higher pay. The district has not replaced retiring staff where possible.
Q: Why can’t Lakewood live within its budget?
A: The district controlled costs during the last 10 years. The May 2003 emergency levy and later the May 2008 renewal levy-each passed originally for five yearswere used for that period and beyond, even under reduced state funding. Additionally, the board in fiscal year 2009 enacted other cuts such as suspending a bus purchase, no additional equipment purchases, no subsidizing of field trips, no hiring for open positions, and other measures. The board also controlled contract services (copiers, insurance, etc.) in addition to $1.2 million in cuts for fiscal year 2011.
School officials fielded several questions from the audience. Here are some of them:
Q: What about implementing pay-to-play instead of canceling extra-curricular activities entirely?
A: “I will not support that,” said Gault. He said no academics would be cut to fund extra curricular activities. Gault said the district would clearly not be able to afford programs outside of the classroom curriculum.
Treasurer Glenna Plaisted did, however, create a chart of expenses for pay-to-play, which would have to support the salaries of staff, coaching contracts, transportation, and other costs. She estimated athletics would cost each student $1316.86 per year or more, and band would cost each student $708.66 per year, possibly more.
Q: If the levy fails in November, when do the cuts take effect?
A: Board President Joe Bowman, Jr. said the cuts would take effect the 2011-2012 school year that begins next August.
Q: It seems as though the school district constantly asks for more money from the voters. Does it ever end?
A: Gault said the short answer is no. “That’s the way the cycle goes,” he said. Under the current form of state funding, the income from levies does not increase, but expenses do. Also, the state has less and less money to contribute to school districts, which increases the need for levies. He said the Ohio legislature reduced taxable property income from businesses, basically eliminating more than $3 million Lakewood received annually from the Hebron Industrial Park.
The levy is needed to replace the loss of tangible personal property tax revenues that local business inventory values and furniture/ equipment values held by businesses generate. House Bill 66 phased out this tax in favor of placing the burden upon residents. If the levy is approved, it will raise property tax by $303 per year, or $20 per month, for the owner of a $100,000 home. This increase would start in 2011 and continue through 2020.
During the forum, Hebron Village Administrator Mike Mc- Farland said he’s aware of “site selectors” who visit communities to determine if they are right for commercial and industrial projects. “They are trying their best to discard sites for industrial development,” he said, adding that it’s a “weeding out” process, not a discovery process. “The first question they ask is, ‘Tell me about your school.’” The ripple effect of a struggling school district has a negative impact on enticing industry to a community, said McFarland.