By Kevin Kelley
The Westlake City Schools may consider the restoration of recent cutbacks to student busing based on unexpected money collected by the county.
On Feb. 14, the Cuyahoga County auditor’s office informed the district that delinquent property tax payments exceeded its expectations. The results could be a one-time spike in $1 million to $2 million in revenue to the district, the district announced Wednesday. The district’s entire budget for the 2012-13 school year was $51.18 million.
On Feb. 3, the district cut student busing to the state minimum requirements – service to students grade eight and below who live two miles or more from their school. Those cuts, in addition to the implementation of a pay-to-participate program for students wishing to take part in athletics and extra-curricular activities, were recently approved by the Board of Education following the defeat of two operating levies last year.
Superintendent Dan Keenan said both the busing cuts and pay-to-participate program may be restored or at least postponed thanks to the additional tax collections.
“This is a very positive thing for the district for the short term,” Keenan said of the unexpected revenue.”Considering our immediate reductions and this new information, I plan to discuss the possibility of restoring busing back to the one-mile mark for students at our Feb. 24 Board of Education meeting.”
District officials said they expect to received more information from the county regarding the exact amount of money the district will receive.
“I will work with [Treasurer Mark] Pepera to further understand the impact of the unanticipated revenue so I can provide a revised reduction plan recommendation to the Board in April or May,” Keenan said in a statement.
However, the windfall does not make up for the defeat of the operating levies, Keenan said.
“Westlake City Schools still face serious long-term budget issues because of two failed levy attempts,” Keenan said. “While this one-time windfall is good news for the short term, without new levy money and with the $11 million cut in state funding over the past seven years, we still have to change our processes and have some very difficult decisions to make.”
Teacher layoffs will still be necessary, district officials said.
The district published on its website a list of frequently asked questions about the unexpected tax revenue and its overall financial situation. That page can be found at www.westlake.k12.oh.us/schools/QA/Pages/default.aspx.