Licking County News

Licking Heights

Cutbacks continue in wake of failed levy request


No residents attended a Licking Heights school board special meeting Nov. 29, where board members continued to reduce staff and hours in the wake of a levy failure Nov. 6.

The district's 8.9-mill levy request failed decisively with 2,776 votes against it and 1,693 in favor, and the district is in the process of cutting $2.8 million from its operating budget as a result.

A reduction of roughly 40 staff members, including teaching staff, is anticipated.

"We're currently working through the student schedules for next semester," said Superintendent Philip Wagner.

With that in mind, Wagner said, the school board may not announce specific teacher layoffs until February or March.

However, reductions in specific teachers' hours may be announced at the Dec. 18 regular board meeting.

The school board rebid hours for bus drivers and custodial employees Nov. 29.

As of Dec. 3, the district no longer will provide bus service to the high school, and drivers for 16 bus routes had their hours reduced by 1.75 hours per day to compensate.

In terms of the custodial staff, two positions were eliminated entirely, and four custodial employees were reduced to part-time schedules.

On Nov. 15, one gifted-students instructor, two guidance counselors, one bus mechanic and three groundskeepers were laid off.

"There should be more subsequent cuts, but probably not teaching" announced Dec. 18, said board President Richard Wand.

Wand agreed with Wagner that announcements of teacher layoffs -- not just reduced hours -- would likely come in late winter or early spring.

He said those layoffs likely would not go into effect until the end of the school year.

Most shouldn't come as a surprise because all the necessary cuts in lieu of a levy failure were closely detailed ahead of the election, Wand said.

"They should know who's being cut from the earlier announcements," he said.

As for the elimination of high school busing, Wand said, he hopes parents and students will adapt fairly easily when the service is eliminated next week, but he expects some difficulties.

"We know there'll be hiccups," he said.

Wand said the district is working with the Pataskala Police Department to ensure that traffic flows smoothly, and high school administrators and teachers will expect some degree of tardiness, at least at the beginning.

"We'll try very hard not to hold it against the students," he said.

However, Wand said, administrators and teachers will keep a close eye on students' attendance to ensure no one is taking advantage of the situation to sleep in a few extra