District Presents Budget Reduction Recommendations to Board of Ed: Plan would net $8.6M in savings over next few years
Lakewood City School District Superintendent Jeffrey W. Patterson introduced a financial plan at the May 21 Board of Education meeting that will put the district on a more solid financial ground going forward. District officials developed the plan in accordance with the priorities expressed by residents during the community engagement meetings held in January and February. The plan honors the wishes of the community by minimizing the direct impact on student programming and keeps job losses low.
“It’s never easy to recommend budget reductions. However, we have developed the best plan possible that still provides the resources to ensure our students are achieving at the highest level and are well-prepared for success in the 21st century. This plan preserves that which the community values in our school district,” Patterson said.
The Board is scheduled to vote on the recommended plan at its June 4 meeting.
Following successful negotiations with the Lakewood Teachers Association (LTA), the district is able to save $2 million through Fiscal Year 2014 that it would otherwise have made in reductions. Teachers will take a 0% base pay increase in 2013-14, pay 5% more for health care beginning in 2012-13, and participate in a retirement incentive program in 2013-14.
Superintendent Patterson commented “We appreciate the LTA coming to the table and working with us to accomplish these savings. We recognize that this is something that they did not have to do, but they saw the need, and helped us develop a plan that will maintain the financial security of the district for years to come.”
Part of the $8.6 million in savings the district will realize through the plan includes the elimination of twenty five and a half full-time equivalent positions. The reductions include the elimination of full-time and part-time jobs and in some cases, reduction in employees’ hours.
The reductions affect employees at every level and include five positions at the administration office, eight and a half at the high school, five at the middle schools and seven in the elementary schools. As of next school year, the district will operate with eighty-nine fewer positions than it had just two years ago.
The financial plan also recommends closing an elementary school prior to the 2013-14 school year, which will result in annual savings of $400,000. Together, the savings from fewer jobs and buildings will significantly help reduce the projected $12.5 million deficit in 2015.
Other short-term savings in the plan come through reducing textbook spending and non-renewals of technology leases through the 2013-2014 school year and a shifting of a surplus in the district’s workers’ compensation fund to the general fund.
The priorities expressed by the community in the meetings held earlier this year guided district officials as they crafted a plan that required tough decisions. For instance, if personnel reductions were to result in larger class sizes, the community clearly expressed that those larger classes should be at the high school and not at the elementary level. The number of teachers that will not be replaced is largest at the high school. No regular classroom teachers will be eliminated at the elementary level.
The community also made clear how highly it values the music, art and gifted programs. No reductions will come in performing arts programming, a half a position will be reduced in the art department and all students who are identified as gifted will continue to be served at all levels. The reductions also manage to preserve the broad range of programming also noted by the community as a hallmark of Lakewood City Schools.
If the proposed reductions are approved by the Board of Education, the district will have reduced $22.3 million from its budget since 2005. These cuts have become necessary because the State has slashed the education budget, and local property tax revenue has suffered during the prolonged housing slump. These factors have combined to effectively negate any revenue gained from the 2010 levy.
“Thanks to the hard work and efforts of our administration and the cooperation of our staff, the district will realize a savings of $8.6 million over the next three years, which will allow us to minimize any future millage request” Patterson said. “The plan does not come without sacrifice, but in the long run, our district will be able to move forward on strong financial footing and continue to be able to offer the programming our community so highly values.”