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Deep Cuts Ahead
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Reprinted courtesy of the Westerville News & Public Opinion/SNP

ęCopyright Suburban News Publications, Columbus, Ohio, 2003

Originally published October 1, 2003

Deep cuts looming if levy fails again

Class sizes would jump to 30; high school day would be cut to five periods; 98 full-time employees would be laid off.

By JOHN SHERIDAN

State minimum curriculum requirements, the loss of 56 teaching positions, bus stops a half-mile apart -- welcome to Westerville City School District if the operating levy fails again Nov. 4, say districts officials.

They say are not trying to scare people into voting, but the cold fact is the district will face having to make an additional $8.6 million in cuts for the 2004-05 school year, on the heels of making $5.7 million in cuts it made for fiscal year 2004 after a slightly larger proposed operating levy failed in May.

"The reality is the state requires a balanced operating budget. There comes a point where we cannot operate with a deficit," said Superintendent George Tombaugh.

Thus comes the plan for the district's 7.5-mill, three-year operating levy on the fall ballot. Passage would cost district homeowners $230 per $100,000 of home valuation.

The money crunch comes from three sources, said Tombaugh: Through a reduction in state funding, the district lost about $700,000 last year from state budget cutbacks to education; Increased student enrollment is expected to put an additional 100 to 150 students per year in the schools through 2008, projections show. And new school buildings have been added -- through separate funding from a bond issue -- to meet the demands of the growing district, pushing annual operating costs.

At the district's Town Hall meeting Thursday and again at Monday's levy campaign kick-off, members the levy committee, Citizens for Schools, distributed information on what happens if a levy doesn't pass.

The figures paint a bleak picture of exactly what $8.6 million in additional cuts would mean for the district. Though not adopted by the school board in any formal vote, the list of cuts was presented in a report by district Treasurer Dan Shively at a June 9 board meeting.

Pay-to-play would be increased. This year parents have to fund one-quarter of the costs for students to participate in athletics and clubs, at $117 per high school activity with a $234 cap per student, and a $467 cap for families with more than one student in high school. That cost could quadruple.

Class size would be increased to district capacity in every grade level, to 26 in kindergarten, 27 in first- and second-grade, and 30 for grades three through 12.

High school graduation requirements would also be lowered, from 21 to 20 credits, and curriculum requirements would be lowered to state minimum requirements.

That would be necessary because, the middle school and high school days would be reduced to five periods from the current six.

Most school districts in Central Ohio have seven-period high school days, not including lunch.

Extensive reduction-in-force moves would be required -- nearly 100 full-time employees in all.

Six media and guidance counselors positions would be cut in addition five administrative jobs, 12 middle school duty monitors, 10 bus drivers, one mechanic and eight custodial positions.

And 56 teaching positions, mainly at the high school and middle schools levels, would have to go.

The losses would come from elective courses -- 36 at the high schools, 12 at the middle schools, along with six middle school core course teachers and two from the Able and Talented program.

"Eighty-five percent of our budget costs are for personnel and benefits. The reductions made this year were by eliminating positions and low enrollment courses. The only other place to have further reductions is to reduce to the number of course offering for students and to cut back (high school) courses to five," Tombaugh said.

The magnet schools would most likely remain intact, Tombaugh said. He noted there are no plans to make any changes and that the buildings cost about the same or less than other schools to operate since they are pretty much centrally located and attendance in on a voluntary basis.

"I hope I don't have to think about it," said school board member Kevin Hoffman.

He said if the district's body fat were to be measured it would show the district is already very lean and another round of cuts would be cutting deep into muscle and through to the bone.

"If people understand the facts here they will vote for the levy," he said.

 

 

Read more Central Ohio community news at www.SNPonline.com

 

Westerville Voters On Target for Education