Hundreds of residents came to Westland High School on March 31 to attend a special community forum regarding a four-year 8.3-mill operating levy that will be on the May 5 ballot.
Students and staff in support of Issue 15 came wearing red t-shirts with the slogan “I am the Levy” on them, while attendees against the levy, or on the fence about it, came to hear the South-Western administration make their case.
The operating levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $22 per month, or $264 extra per year in taxes.
Officials said $1.6 million in cuts would have to be made even if Issue 15 is passed, but even deeper reductions would have to be made if it is not passed.
“We didn’t like the decisions to cut any of these programs or positions, but we are required to make them (in order to balance the budget),” said Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise.
The $1.6 million in cuts include reducing the district’s overall budget by $110,000, reducing the number of intervention specialists and shifting the positions to IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), modifying the relationship between SWCS and the Buckeye Ranch, and charging tuition for summer school.
Personnel wise, the district will have to eliminate eight personnel positions, two classified positions and one administrative position.
If voters turn down the levy, the district says they will have to make approximately $6.4 million in reductions to balance their budget.
Personnel wise, the cuts include eliminating seven administrative personnel positions, 29 certificated personnel positions and 30 classified or support staff positions.
Also included in the cuts will be the closure of Kingston Schools and Harrisburg Elementary (the students would be redistributed to other local elementary schools, mainly Darbydale), the reduction of board supported field trips, the elimination of high school busing and expansion of walk zones, and the elimination of extracurricular activities, such as athletics, clubs, organizations and marching band.
The district officials have discussed implementing pay to play for the extracurricular activities, but Treasurer Hugh Garside estimated it could cost families around $700 to $800 per student to participate in athletics.
During the community forum, most attendees spoke in support for Issue 15, but some questioned the timing of asking for additional funding in a time where the economy is unstable, as well as the job and housing market.
“It’s just not feasible with the economic situation we’re in for the district to ask us to give more when we have nothing more to give,” said Ms. Daniels, a Westside resident who recently lost her job.
Garside said he understands the opposition’s perspective, and that come May 5, casting the ballot will be a personal decision.
In the meantime, the district will hold a phone bank April 21-23 where residents can call in and have questions answered, and students and volunteers will be doing door-to-door campaigns to speak to residents about Issue 15.
Gary Leasure, Issue 15 campaign chairman, said anyone who wants to volunteer or endorse the levy, go to Web site www.citizensforswcs.com for more information.
Please consider voting YES on Issue 15. Just think of the number of students and recreational age children that will not have supervised, instructional activities to guide them in developing team-oriented skills socially and physically keeping them busy this summer, fall, winter and spring. These students/children will be in neighborhoods skating boarding, basketball playing, gathering in streets and our parks with no supervision in larger numbers than what we are seeing today. Isn't $22.00 a month worth peace of mind for your property and communites well being? This issue is not about the board or money the district spends, this issue is again about the students and children of this community. A community provided your activities when you went to school aren't todays students and recreational children allowed to have what somebody gave and allowed you to do? Most people then probably didn't want to pay for the levies but they did because this is for the students and children in your neighborhoods. To say you cannot afford $22.00 a month is saying to these students, your not worth it, my community is not worth it, my house is not worth $22.00 a month. Everybody I know lives paycheck to paycheck but $22.00 a month is worth giving back to those students who need their activities to keep them focused on school and keeping them out of trouble. One pizza a month or one trip to McDonalds is worth peace of mind for our homes and community as a whole.