While the Lake school board Tuesday formally approved spending cuts of about $1.15 million, board members also let residents know there would likely be a request for additional operating funds on the ballot this year.
But even if voters approve more millage, the cuts to teaching and non-teaching personnel, the reduction of the kindergarten program, and the closing of Walbridge Elementary School will remain in place, according to the board and administration.
“These cuts merely allow us to stay afloat until February of 2013 when the additional revenue from the passage of an operating levy this year will start to be collected,” said Tim Krugh, board president. “If this community does not pass an operating levy this year we will only have two options left. Impose a third round of huge cuts effective Jan. 1, 2013 or tell the state that we have done all that we can rationally do as a board of education.”
He noted the board cut about $1.3 million from the operating budget two years ago and described the district’s financial condition as a “more formidable challenge” than rebuilding after the June 2010 tornado that destroyed the high school building.
Board member Eric Hirzel described the district as being in “survival mode.” He said the district has maintained an Excellent rating in the state report card while per-pupil spending remains in the lowest 15 percent of similar sized districts in the state.
Positions affected by the cuts include:
• Eight classroom teachers, one guidance counselor, and one nurse.
_ Thirteen assistant coaches.
_ Three co-curricular positions.
• Three custodians, one maintenance employee, two bus drivers, three study-hall monitors, and 2 ½ secretaries.
• One central office employee and five positions contracted through the Wood County Educational Service Center.
The loss of all-day, every-day kindergarten classes in particular concerned some young parents. One woman said she was considering enrolling her son in another district when he starts kindergarten to take advantage of its full-time program.
The kindergarten program “is our foundation,” she said.
Three of the eight classroom teachers losing their jobs are kindergarten teachers, said Jeff Carpenter, district treasurer. In all, the district had six full-time kindergarten teachers.
School districts are not required by state regulations to provide all-day, every-day kindergarten classes, he said.
Jim Witt, superintendent, said after the meeting the format for the 2012-13 school year could be all-day every other day or a half-day every day.
Carpenter cited the loss of state and local tax revenues as a driving force in Lake’s deteriorating finances. In addition to an earlier loss of $396,496 from the state, district officials are bracing for the loss of an additional loss of $129,823 on top of a loss this fiscal year of $425,903 from local property taxes.
He is projecting a deficit of $1.17 million by January 2013 without the cuts or additional revenues.
The somber tone of the meeting when the cuts were approved contrasted sharply from earlier in the meeting when the boys and girls basketball teams were recognized for their sectional tournament championships along with swimming, diving, and wrestling champions and students who received excellent and superior ratings in a Ohio Musical Education Association competition.
Several residents offered to volunteer for a levy campaign.