Lake cuts deep

Jeff Barton of Walbridge directs a question to
the Lake Board of Education during a board meeting to discuss cutbacks to the
Kindergarten program. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)

MILLBURY – First on the agenda at the Lake Board of Education Wednesday meeting:
Recognizing accomplished students.
There was a parade of outstanding basketball players, superior-rated music students
and the top speller at Lake Elementary. The middle school quiz bowl team got
kudos for being tops in the county.
Then the board voted to strip $1.15 million from the district’s budget. That’s 43
positions, including eight teachers, and the all-day everyday kindergarten
The board blamed the necessary cuts on $1.6 million lost this year in state and
federal funding, combined with a decrease in property taxes, plus the rejection
of two levies last year.
"This board now has no choice but to make these deep and devastating cuts,"
said board president Tim Krugh before a crowd of about 200 in the middle school
cafeteria. "It’s heartbreaking to me that we are forced to take this action
that we are compelled to take. May God have mercy on us."
Each of the five board members spoke before voting unanimously to make the cuts.
There was no public commentary before the vote.
Board member Eric Hirzel compared this round of cuts to the elimination of sports and
extracurriculars 10 years ago when Lake was in financial crisis. He said the
district made huge strides as it fought its way back financially and
academically to where it is today. Thanks to administrators like Superintendent
Jim Witt and Treasurer Jeff Carpenter, there is a continual push for excellence
and efficiency at Lake, Hirzel said.
"Is it good for the taxpayers and is it good for the kids? Some of our decisions
may not have been popular but we used that litmus test," he said.

Krugh, president of the Lake Board of Education, and other board

members, listen to comments concerning cutbacks to the Kindergarten

program during a board meeting Wednesday evening.

While Lake was rated "Excellent" and "Excellent with Distinction"
by the state for two years, it still was in the bottom 15 percent in Ohio in
cost per student, Hirzel said.
"Now we’re in grave danger of losing everything we have gained over the last
five years," he said.
Scott Swartz said the cuts were spread over every area of Lake.
Cut on Wednesday were eight classroom teachers, a guidance counselor, nurse, 13
coaching positions, 2.5 secretaries, three custodians, two bus drivers and five
Wood County Educational Service Center employees.
The 90-year-old Walbridge Elementary, which houses kindergartners and first-graders,
will close at the end of the school year and the property will be sold. The
board is also doing away with all-day, everyday kindergarten in favor of
all-day, every-other-day kindergarten.
"I’m so sad this has come to this and I feel that we have failed as a
community," said parent Lisa Ries.
She and other parents urged the board to reconsider the kindergarten change, which is
responsible for three teachers eliminated. Several said they would send their
children – along with their tax dollars – to other districts to get a full-day
"Are you sure it’s not going to bite us in the end?" asked Joe St. John.

Kelly York asked if there was any tax issue this year that would save the employees’
jobs and Walbridge.
Krugh said no, and that any new money approved this year by voters would start being
collected in February. If new operating funds are rejected again, a third wave
of cuts will be made in January. The first round of cuts was $1.3 million made
in May 2010; Wednesday’s cuts are being called the second batch.
"Right now we’re just trying to get to February ’13," Krugh said.

Attendees and members of the Lake Board of
Education meet to discuss cutbacks to the Kindergarten program during a board
meeting Wednesday evening.

"We’re in survival mode," Hirzel said.
York also urged the board to consider an income tax instead of a property tax.
Whatever is on the ballot in August, board member John Ervin said he hoped this
action would spur more "yes" votes.
"I urge you to remember today when you cast your vote in August," he said.

The cuts approved by the Lake Board of Education, effective May 25:
• 13 coaching positions.
• Three co-curricular positions.
• 10 LEA positions, including eight classroom teachers, one guidance counselor, and
one nurse.
• 11.5 Ohio Association of Public School Employees positions, including two and
one-half secretaries, three custodians, one maintenance employee, two bus
drivers, and three study hall monitors
• One central office employee.
• Five Wood County Educational Service Center positions.
• Extended time supplemental work/positions will also be reduced or eliminated.
The board will also:
• Close Walbridge Elementary and the end of the 2011-12 school year, and sell the
building and property.
• Reduce all-day everyday kindergarten to every-other-day kindergarten.
Collectively, these reductions in force and other cost-cutting measures will reduce
expenditures for the District by $1,154,669.00 from now until June 30, 2013.

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