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Schools’ Budget Woes the Focus of Community Forum

Superintendent Jeff Patterson presents the first of eight community forums to discuss issues that include an impending levy, the schools’ Master Facilities Plan and additional spending cuts.

For the , it’s all about the budget.

About two-dozen residents showed up at for the hosted by Lakewood Superintendent Jeff Patterson.

The event started — and ended — with the focus on the district’s troubling financial forecast for the next few years. 

For starters, the school district has already cut spending by about $12 million since 2006. 

“These decisions we are going to make over the next two months are not going to be easy,” Patterson said. “In fact, they are going to be uncomfortable.”

In order to maintain its programs and services, he said the district would need to cut $4 million and put a levy on the ballot in May 2013.

If a levy doesn’t pass, the deficit could reach $10.5 million by 2015, according to the .

When the last levy passed in 2010, school officials promised voters there wouldn’t be another ballot issue for three years.

“We are going to keep that promise,” said Patterson.

The challenge he said is balancing the budget while maintaining the teaching staff in the district.

“These are tough economic times,” Patterson said. “We are going to need to make adjustments to our economic plan. There is a shift in funding, from the state to local communities.”

But not everything is bleak, he said.

  • Achievement: Last August, the district learned it been given an “excellent” rating on the state report card. “In education, we have a vision of becoming a more effective school district. We need to continue to increase academic achievement, and equip students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the 21st century.
  • Technology: It’s not just about handing out netbooks and laptops, Patterson said. “It’s about using technological resources so they can do research so they can discover those critical skills.”
  • Facility Master Plan: “Our district plans to move forward with the Phase III of the Facility Master Plan immediately upon release of the state’s share of the construction costs.”

“We’re going to be discussing these initiatives over the course of the next few years, because we want to continue the fine tradition of the Lakewood schools,” Patterson said. 

During the second portion of the event, Patterson asked members in the audience to give feedback on balancing the budget.

When he asked what are the district characteristics, programs and services that make the school district special, the answers ranged from walkability, the Lakewood Project to extra-curricular activities.  

“At some point in time, we’re going to have to makes some difficult and uncomfortable decisions,” he said, adding that he hopes the community will participate in the discussion.

The meetings, all slated for 7 p.m., will take place at several locations in Lakewood.

Here’s the rest of the schedule:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 18, Cafeteria, 16401 Delaware Ave.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 24, Gym, 1470 Victoria Ave.
  • Thursday, Feb. 2 at Cafetorium, 1251 W. Clifton Blvd.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8, Gym, 14237 Athens. Ave.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 15, Large Gym, 15615 Clifton Blvd.
  • Thursday, Feb. 23, Cafeteria, 13439 Clifton Blvd.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 29, Cafeteria, 2080 Quail Ave.
  • Thursday, March 8, in the east cafeteria. 

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