“It comes down to: are students worth $12 bucks a month. If they are, vote yes. If they’re not, vote no,” said Willoughby-Eastlake Schools Superintendent Steve Thompson in his speech to hundreds of parents and children packed in Willoughby South’s gymnasium.
The superintendent detailed the cuts that will save the school district $12.7 million in 2012. The cuts are the result of the November 2011 levy failure and include union concessions.
Willoughby-Eastlake schools will lose a total of $8.75 million in revenue in 2012 including a 9 percent cut in state funding, $700,000 lost due to declining home values and the failure of the levy.
The current budget forecast shows a $87.9 million budget shortfall by 2016.
“The district has been fiscally tight almost to the point where we couldn’t cover ourselves with cash reserves,” Thompson said.
He stressed that the cuts would not affect the students as far as class size and curriculum offered. However, if the March levy is not passed, the game could change.
Thompson suggested cost-saving measures through both cuts and new way to increase revenue.
Transportation was among the largest cost-saving measures suggested at the meeting. With the possible outsourcing of school transportation, the Willoughby-Eastlake School District could potentially save up to $1.2 million.
Other cuts will happen regardless of the outcome of the March levy. Thompson instituted the fee for sports, or Pay to Participate, will cost students $90 beginning the 2012/13 school year.
In addition transportation of special needs students will be converted from vans to buses.
Perhaps the most dramatic change will be the closing of McKinley Elementary which was mainly due to declining enrollment and the age of the building, which was in need of $8 million in repairs Thompson said. Instead, Grant Elementary will receive a $4 million addition based on the passage of a 2010 levy which provides state funding for a project of that nature.
The district will also open Kennedy school which will house 55 Willoughby-Eastlake students who were previously outsourced, a measure that will save the district $600,000.
“We can number one do it better and also do it more cost effectively,” Thompson said.
Another project will focus on energy conservation and save costs. Funding provided through the House Bill 254 energy conservation program will allow the district to replace aging light fixtures and replace doors and windows in an effort to save on future energy bills to the rune of $455,000.
Willoughby-Eastlake schools will now also use reverse auctions, a measure to centralize purchasing of school supplies such as paper. Suppliers will place bids to provide products to the district.
One source of revenue generation will come from advertising on the district’s website. While it is difficult to estimate money made, Thompson said, it could bring Willoughby-Eastlake schools $25,000.
“I don’t expect to see Budweiser on a school bus,” Thompson said, “but Pepsi is OK.”
Among other cuts and changes include insurance concessions, two unpaid furlough days per year and a freeze to pay increases. In addition, 50 teachers have been laid off along with 40 additional positions.
“There will be no impact on class sizes,” he said. “There will also be little impact on course offerings.”
As for the March levy, slated as Issue 4, Superintendent Thompson said the district would be able to recover if it is passed. If not, the district could fall into a deficit totaling in the tens of millions and a fiscal emergency. The levy will cost property owners just over $12 a month per $100,000 in market value.
“We’re at a point where we can do serious damage to property values in the community,” Thompson said. “No one wants to move to a school district that is in a fiscal emergency.”
With passage and union concessions, Willoughby-Eastlake schools will be able to better prepare for a budget deficit of only $6.6 million by 2016.
“If we pass the levy, I don’t think our kids will skip a beat,” he said.
To view the five-year forecast assumption dated November 14, 2011 from the Ohio Department of Education, click here.