By Kevin Kelley
The slogan of Issue 16 supporters is “Real need, proven value.”
The 5.9-mill operating levy for the Westlake City Schools will cost homeowners an additional $15 per month for every $100,000 of property value beginning next year. The levy is expected to raise a little more than $8 million annually, Treasurer Mark Pepera said.
The district’s financial forecast sees deficits appearing before the end of the 2014-2015 school year unless a new operating levy is passed or cuts are made.
Superintendent Dan Keenan said the district will need to make cuts if the levy is not passed.
Keenan and Cathy Axcell, the Issue 16 co-chairwoman, point to cuts made by the district two years ago when state funding declined due to a phaseout of the public utility and tangible personal property reimbursement. Those cuts included the elimination of busing for high school students. Passage of this levy will not restore any of the cuts, Keenan said.
“The key word is maintain,” he said of the levy’s goals.
Issue 16 backers argue the new levy is needed to maintain the quality of public school education Westlake residents have come to expect.
The schools have consistently received excellent ratings on the state report card, and students regularly win awards in academic and extracurricular competitions, school backers note.
At a March 26 public program on the levy at Westlake Porter Public Library, Keenan said the most common question he’s asked is what teachers have done to help the district be financially responsible. He points to the recently approved 18-month teacher contract that includes a 2.5-percent decrease in base salaries during the contract’s final 12 months and a 50 percent increase in health care contributions (from 10 percent to 15 percent).
Keenan added that the Westlake district must stay competitive with nearby districts and the salaries and benefits paid to their teachers.
Keenan and Axcell will present a second session on the levy at 7 p.m. Thursday at Porter Library, 27333 Center Ridge Road. Information from Issue 16′s backers can be found at westlakelevy.com.
Download West Life’s May 7 Primary Election Guide (PDF)