Lakewood Superintendent: Cuts Loom, School to Close
To make up for a $12.4 million shortfall over the next five years, Superintendent Jeff Patterson laid out a budget blueprint at Monday’s school board meeting. But the district’s also going to need some help with a school levy.
In an effort to close a looming $12.4 million budget shortfall over the next five years, the Lakewood School Board considered some deep cuts to the budget on Monday.
And not much was left off the table — including cuts to staffing, fewer textbooks and closing a school.
Those were just a few of the ideas presented by Superintendent Jeff Patterson at Monday night’s school board meeting.
If approved, the proposal would save the district about $8.6 million over the next three years.
“This budget reduction plan accomplishes three goals,” said Patterson. “(It) minimizes the impact on student achievement; meets the criteria set by the community; and significantly reduces the amount of millage necessary in 2013.”
Patterson has made no secret that the district will seek a new operating levy in May 2013.
“These are difficult times when difficult decisions must be made.”
The decisions include closing one of the elementary schools. The school board previously voted — as part of the Phase 3 construction plan — to shutter Grant Elementary School, but Patterson said he’d like see which school “makes the most sense” to close.
“There are a lot factors to consider,” he said.
The school board voted to eliminate several positions — including a custodial position, an athletic manager post and a number of teaching positions.
“We’re going to have 25 fewer positions going into the next school year,” Patterson said, but stressed that only five teachers will lose their jobs.
The rest of the staffing cuts will be made through attrition.
“This is the hardest thing to do as a school board member,” said long-time board member Linda Beebe. “As I look down this list and see the positions and think about how it will affect the kids on a day-to-day basis, I realize this is where we come to the crunch.
“It’s not an easy decision.”
Last week, the school board OK’d a new contract with the Lakewood Teachers Association, a move that will save the district more than $1.3 million over the next three years.
(See the attached PDF with a detailed outline of the cuts)
The belt-tightening proposal is the result of several community meetings that Patterson hosted during the past couple months. The goal, Patterson said, was to find out what residents didn’t want to see slashed from the budget.
Colleen Clark-Sutton, who attended four of the meetings, said that she believes the administration was listening.
“It could have been way worse,” she said. “Arts and music is an easy place to cut, and this community shared what they value, so we asked them not to cut from one place.”
The shortfall, Patterson said, is the result of massive cuts in state funding. The last levy — passed by Lakewood voters in 2010 — has been “negated by the state cuts.”
“The burden of financially supporting public schools has definitely shifted from the state to the local schools,” he added.
The board will vote whether to accept Patterson’s proposal at the June 4 meeting.