November 28, 2014

Mostly cloudy

Keystone Schools superintendent warns levy failure means more program cuts

LAGRANGE — More cuts in staffing levels, programs and services loom for the Keystone school district should voters reject an operating levy in November.

During a meeting Monday, the Board of Education approved cuts equaling about $1.1 million that would begin to take effect Jan. 1 followed by additional cuts June 1, 2015, should a levy not pass.

“What we approved was a framework for making those cuts in terms of the amounts,” Superintendent Jay Arbaugh said Tuesday. “The specifics of those cuts in terms of numbers of positions, and the details of how we get to those savings, have yet to be decided.”

Voters defeated a 5.95-mill, five-year operating levy in May that would have generated $1.4 million annually for the district, which has not approved any new operating revenue since 1994 when an 8-mill levy was passed by fewer than 100 votes.

Five additional requests for operating funds since 1994 all were defeated by sizable margins. The only other issue that has been passed since 1991 is an 8-mill renewal approved in 1997.

Until May, the district had not sought any additional financial help since 2010.

Keystone is the only Lorain County school district not to have gone before voters since 2010, according to figures presented to the board Monday night.

Whether the November operating levy is a 5.95-mill, five-year issue will be determined by July after the school board gets a clearer picture of the system’s finances, Arbaugh said.

Arbaugh said he assumes the amount of the levy will be in that general amount.

“We’re only asking for what we need to maintain current services,” Arbaugh said. “We’re not asking for any more than that.”

Among the cuts to be made Jan. 1 if a levy is not approved are reductions in paraprofessional and cleaning posts as well as in-school suspension staff that would save a projected $63,204.

A much larger round of cuts to be made by June 1, 2015, look to save a projected $1 million and include reductions of five to six high school teachers from subject areas that could include music, physical education, science, industrial arts, family consumer science and French.

In addition, six kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers would be cut, as would a school resource officer, summer school intervention programs and two security monitor posts. Nursing services and one secretarial post would shrink by 50 percent.

Officials said such cuts would result in bigger class sizes that would add an average eight pupils in kindergarten classes while boosting the size of classes in grades one to five by up to seven students. Personnel cuts also would lead to the loss of most advanced placement and elective classes.

“Advanced placement classes are generally not as full as regular classes and when reductions are made, those posts are affected first because they are not the core classes that need to be taught,” Arbaugh said. “AP classes are generally the first to go because we have to cover essential curriculum. And it’s the same with electives.”

The district made cuts last month that eliminated five teaching posts along with two other jobs, and did away with middle school softball and all freshman sports at the high school. Those cuts are expected to save $700,650.

Despite the cuts, the district has managed to maintain its overall enrollment of about 1,700 for the past several years. Revenues have declined by about $1 million in that time due to declining property valuations, taxpayer delinquencies and fewer new homes being built, officials said.

Year-end balances have continued to shrink in recent years, and figures are projecting a $1.3 million deficit by the end of the 2016-17 school year without additional revenue.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

  • Sis Delish

    Looks like the bribe monies to vote for Obama are running out… how will our educators survive the Real World of the Economy without subsidies for their support in the voting booth?

    Biggest B.S. Line from Educators and School Administrations:
    “We’re only asking for what we need to maintain current services,” Arbaugh said. “We’re not asking for any more than that.”

    Ever take a Salary “REDUCTION”?
    Ever consider paying LESS for Health Insurance??
    Ever even think about FEWER DAYS OFF WITH PAY???

    This Lesson is never Learned by the so-called LearnEd.

    • SniperFire

      This Arbaugh guy is a joke and will just say anything he thinks somebody will believe. The C-T is more than willing to let paid liars keep throwing sheet on the wall hoping something will stick.

  • SniperFire

    Why not just require teachers to pay more for their health insurance and stop forcing the taxpayer to absorb almost all the cost of these cadillac healthcare plans?

    There’s yer problem right there.

    • William Posey

      SniperFire all your comments are about teachers health care. Even if they did increase the teachers portion of healthcare it would not cover the budget shortfall. And the teachers do NOT have a zero deductible health plan. This is about the students and their education and you obviously do not care about them. You do realize that giving our children a good, quality education benefits you and everyone. Our children will be working and paying into social security to help pay for YOUR benefits.

      I grew up here and decided to move my family back here because it’s a great community. But I am ashamed that the community has not passed an operating levy since 1997!

      Is it possible for you to point out something besides health care?

      • Sis Delish

        I don’t know what You pay for healthcare, but its pretty darn expensive these days, and I venture to guess, the proportionate rise in the cost of education can be directly attributed to the cost to the Taxpayers for this increased cost of insuring the folks who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs because of tenure.

      • Pablo Jones

        The cost of healthcare for Keystone school district employees is roughly $1400 a month. The premium the teachers pay is very low, without looking it up again I think it was close to 5% of the total. As for the deductible they have it is around $300 and the school district puts about $250 into a type of Flexible spending plan for the teachers so they essentially don’t have to pay for a deductible.

        The teachers have also recieved a 2-3% raise each of the last few years. That is were the extra money is needed the teachers keep getting raises, but does the quality of the education they provide increase?

      • SniperFire

        ‘SniperFire all your comments are about teachers health care.’

        Wrong. The rest of your post is ignored and discounted accordingly. Except for this:

        ‘ But I am ashamed that the community has not passed an operating levy since 1997!’

        Whenever I see that, I know there is an attempt to obfuscate the truth (that means lie) as any good Liberal is wont to do.

        There has been a steady, methodical increase in school funding over the years, averaging nearly 7% per year since the last levy was passed.

        (Credit to Pablo Jones):

        In fact, school funding at Keystone has nearly doubled during the time in question.

        An honest argument would be that operating revenues have peaked and leveled off since 2009. Not that we would expect an honest argument for folks such as you.

      • golfingirl

        Maybe the community is not as “great” as it once was, if your definition of a great community is once which supports their schools.

        If this is the case, may be time to look for another community. One which you are not “ashamed” of.

  • Summer Smart

    School Resource Officer is under contract, you cannot cut this position. One exaggeration leads to the rest looking unbelievable. Stick to the entire truth and you just might get somewhere.

    • FoodForThought63

      Lol anyone can be cut, contract is void if the money isn’t there to pay them. They write them up that way.

      • William Posey

        You no nothing about law. If the teacher is under contract, the district has to pay, with few exceptions. One exception would be the district being in bankruptcy.

        • Pablo Jones

          Those exceptions are listed in their contract on how employees can be let go and who has to go first. If their contract says they can be let go at anytime, then they can be let go.

        • golfingirl

          If the contract is written as such, you may be correct.

          Solution…..Don’t write these types of contracts.

          Run it like a private business. If the economy slumps, and sales decline, people lose their jobs.

          Why are jobs in a school district guaranteed? What makes their employees so special? They are replaceable, like every other worker in this country.

  • SniperFire

    A school teacher works 180 days per year by contract, and less than 8 hours per day. It is decidedly a part time job.

    Why are taxpayers in such districts paying almost all of the $1400 per month in healthcare for these part time workers? That is simply obscene.

    Put them on their beloved Obamacare.

    Or better yet, contract public teaching out to motivated private firms.

    Time to rethink education.

  • SniperFire

    ‘Revenues have declined by about $1 million in that time due to declining property valuations, taxpayer delinquencies and fewer new homes being built, officials said.’

    Not according to the State General Assembly figures posted below. Operating revenues peaked at $14.39m in ’09 and stand at $14.25m at last report.

    Be a crack reporter Mr. Fogarty and dig into it to tell us who is lying to the public, and why. Or not. LOL

  • Sue Lawson

    It is time for schools to contact the governor and have him fix the funding. Write letters, e-mail, or call him, just quit saying how people don’t care about the kids when we are over taxed as it is. Oh and you won’t get to talk to the governor but can leave a message. But of course this won’t happen because people with take the time to write letters to editor but not the governor.

    • Pablo Jones

      The bulk of the decline in state funding for Keystone actually came under the former governor. The funding under Kasich has been fairly steady.

      • Sue Lawson

        The point I am trying to make is why can’t these people, students included, write a letter to Kasich. They keep saying people don’t care about the kids. Kasich is up for re-election, maybe enough letters would put a fire under him. Have a tax where everyone pays, not just the property owners.

    • William Posey

      Good point. Many years ago the Supreme Court ruled that the current school funding model is unconstitutional. But they have not forced the State to change it, which they should. Our state government has failed us.

  • Tired of paying

    I wouldn’t mine paying more if everyone paid the same amount not a percentage of your our value. We are paying a lot for the new schools to be built. Once they are finished and they don’t need to renew the levy, then I wouldn’t have a problem with putting that money toward operating expenses.