December 19, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
30°F
test

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 sfogarty@chroniclet.com.