Many people have been working extremely hard to get the word out relative to a very important issue for the Westlake Schools. I would ask that you investigate and learn the real facts surrounding Issue 88.
First, Issue 88 is an operating levy for the schools. As most of you are aware, the last time the schools received any new money relative to an operating levy was following the levy in 2006. At that time, the district indicated that the levy cycle would be four years. However, through being fiscally prudent, that timeframe has been stretched to seven years. This was accomplished through cost-saving measures such as consortiums, refinancing of bonds, reductions and freezes in salaries, increases in amounts paid by employees for health care, cuts to the budget where possible, etc…. This was also accomplished despite many, many millions of dollars in state funding being slashed since 2006.
In May, 2013, a 5.9 mill levy was unsuccessful. That request lost by 44 votes. The district then inquired of the community as to what was necessary for the levy to pass. The community indicated that it would like to see additional cuts made and the millage lessened. The district responded with nearly a million dollars in cuts and reduced the millage to 5.4. The district has also indicated that the new levy would last five years.
What happens if Issue 88 fails? More cuts will be required. $2.2 million dollars in cuts will be necessary immediately and that would involve 30 teaching positions, AP classes, music and art classes, transportation reduced to State minimum levels, and more. Additional funding will ultimately be required and should this levy in November fail, a levy would be necessary in 2014. However, in order to generate the same amount of money with a 2014 levy as would be generated with this November levy, the millage amount would need to be 7.5 mills instead of the 5.4 mills now being requested.
We need to vote YES on Issue 88 if we are to maintain the programming that our students deserve and which prepares them for life after leaving Westlake Schools. We need to vote YES on Issue 88 if we are to provide the excellence that the Westlake community has come to expect. We need to vote YES on Issue 88 if we are to insure that people want to move into Westlake because we have an excellent school system, thereby keeping our property values high. Voting YES on Issue 88 truly protects the entire community.
Anonymous mailers have been circulating, along with postings on social media. I personally give no credence to mailers or postings where the author is afraid to sign his or her name to it. I believe that the author must know that he/she is not being truthful and therefore does not want to be called out on the misstatements. Otherwise, why not take ownership of your comments?
That being said, their fallacies include comments that the district is failing and that money is being wasted. The REAL FACTS are that a district cannot rank in the top 4-7% of all districts in Ohio (612 districts) year after year if it is failing. The REAL FACTS are that a district does not have its gifted program rank in the top 2% in the State if it is failing. The REAL FACTS are that a district does not produce twice as many National Merit Semi-Finalists as any other district on the west side if it is failing. The REAL FACTS are that a district does not have two nationally recognized Blue Ribbon Schools if it is failing. (There were only 11 in the entire State of Ohio and we had two). Money is NOT being wasted when you can stretch an expected 4 year levy to 7 years. Money is NOT being wasted when you are recognized by the State of Ohio for being at the top in shared services, thereby saving money for the taxpayers. Money is NOT being wasted when you continually look for consortiums and savings methods that allow your projected expenses to decrease every year since projections in 2008. Money is NOT being wasted when the last teachers contract calls for a 2.5% reduction in salary, a 50% increase in health insurance payments and more working days.
The Westlake Schools cannot be failing educationally or wasting money when your superintendent is recognized as the Ohio Superintendent of the Year and your treasurer once again receives the Ohio Auditor’s Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
The truth is that your Westlake Schools are being well run educationally and financially! That being said, the district will continue to look at all ways it can continue to improve. Please know that it will not sit on its laurels after the levy is successful. The goal is, and will always be, to be the best district in the State.
Please look at all the facts surrounding Issue 88. Please join me in voting YES on Issue 88.
(Ed. Note: Mays is President of the Westlake Board of Education).