The $55.8 million state budget, signed July 30 by Gov. John Kasich, restores basic state aid to school districts. Therefore, no additional cuts besides those approved by the Westlake Board of Education May 23 will be needed, Superintendent Dan Keenan said.
Like all public districts in the state, the Westlake schools will still lose about $4 million over two years as public utility reimbursements and payments due to the discontinued of the tangible personal property tax are phased out more rapidly than originally planned.
The cuts approved in May include the elimination of up to 17 teaching positions, six of which would have been new teachers for the all-day kindergarten classes scheduled to begin this fall. While an optional, tuition-based all-day kindergarten class will be offered, the all-day program for all students was cut.
In addition, three teaching contracts are being suspended, meaning those teachers must be recalled if an opening in their licensure specialty comes up within two years. Up to 20 non-teaching positions are also being cut this year. Two administrative positions are being reduced from full to part time. And bus transportation for high school students is being eliminated.
All five board members voted in favor of the cuts.
Keenan said if the teachers’ union agrees to concessions, the district may be able to bring back some of the cut employees. The superintendent said sufficient concessions would allow programs such as the all-day kindergarten program to be restored in future years.
Keenan said the teachers’ union wanted to wait until the state budget was finalized before talks began in earnest about concessions. Concession talks are now under way with the non-teachers’ union, board President Tom Mays said.
Mays noted the current teachers’ contract expires Dec. 31, 2012. “Neither side has to do anything,” he said.
Mays said he’s hopeful concessions will be agreed to. “Any type of concessions save the district money,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mays, Keenan and Treasurer Mark Pepera all deny a charge by board member Nate Cross that the district is excluding its legal counsel from bargaining with the unions.
Cross made the charge in an e-mail sent to West Life, Sun Newspapers and The Plain Dealer June 24.
“District officials have allowed their roles to become politicized by placing themselves on the same side of the table with Board members Winter, Mays & Rocco to ‘rubber-stamp’ and rush a deal through for their colleagues, friends & allies as quickly as possible,” Cross wrote.
“It’s completely, utterly inaccurate for him to say that,” Keenan told West Life. Keenan said he has never been in any negotiation without the district’s attorneys present.
In addition, the board has been discussing possible concessions since March.
“That’s certainly not rushing any deals through,” the superintendent said.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Pepera said when read the text of Cross’s e-mail.
Asked why Cross would make the charge, Mays suggested Cross may be throwing out charges to help certain board members. Three members – Mays, Carol Winter and Tim Sullivan, a frequent ally of Cross – are up for re-election this year.
“Every statement is for political reasons,” Mays said.
Mays also noted the district is not rushing into any deals with the teachers’ union because they wanted to wait until the finalization of the state budget.