(Editor’s Note: This is a commentary on West Clermont Schools by community member Stuart Kennedy. The piece is unedited except for two small spelling changes and has been published in its entirety. If you have an article you wish to publish, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The West Clermont School Levy failed to pass by a 60/40 vote. This was no surprise since the prior two 7.9 mill levies also failed by a 60/40 vote. The school board met the day after the election to discuss their options to handle the over $2,000,000 deficit this school year and the projected $6,000,000 deficit next year.
Many options were discussed but one obvious solution seemed taboo and was never given serious consideration by the board even though it was suggested during the public comment portion of the meeting. Cut salaries and benefits by an equal percentage for all staff – administration and teachers. Salaries and benefits account for more than 70% of West Clermont’s budget (over $47,000,000 per year). How do you have a serious discussion about cutting costs without even considering the largest single cost component in the budget? Sure West Clermont has shown their labor costs are comparable or less than other than districts. Great talking point but that does not fix the deficit. What other districts spend does not fix our budget.
The teacher contract for next year will be negotiated this spring. The timing is perfect to put a solution in place. Of course administration would need to participate in a reduction and should take the cut prior to the contract discussions as an act of leadership. A 13% cut of salaries and benefits will fix the deficit. Fiscal emergency avoided and no additional teachers would be laid off. Who does not know someone in today’s economy that has not had to take a pay cut to remain employed? Perhaps we should round-up to 15% and try to bring back teachers for the music, art and gym. I suggest that if administration and staff took at least a 10% cut, the community likely would support a smaller levy to make up the difference.
Will we lose some of the teachers and staff if their pay and benefits are cut? Yes. But, there a many teachers who have been laid off by local school districts that would likely be very happy to have employment back at 85% of their prior income. It sure beats 0% of their prior income. We would be fully staffed by qualified teachers when school begins in August.
If the school board does not do their job and put a solution in place, the state will come in and make whatever cuts are necessary. These cuts could include further staff reductions of 50 teachers or more. Which is better – keep our teacher count flat but pay them slightly less or cut another 50 teachers?
Please contact the school board if you support this idea. Otherwise, they may take the easy route and do nothing and let the state be the bad guy when dealing with the deficit. If the state comes in, it is evidence the board failed or was unwilling to perform their duty to balance the budget.