School board candidates Carol French and Pete Wilms spoke about their platforms and fielded questions from audience members during an Oct. 11 candidate forum hosted by the Westerville Tea Party.
The two other candidates for the two open seats on the board, Cindy Crowe and Al Hammond, declined the invitation from the Tea Party to attend the forum.
Hammond, an employee of the state auditor’s office, said an attorney for his department reviewed the event and determined that because it was sponsored by a political group, Hammond’s participation would violate policy for state government employees.
Crowe had planned to attend, but sent an email to organizers earlier on Oct. 11 stating she had changed her mind.
French and Wilms, who are running a joint campaign, spent much of the forum airing their complaints about the school district’s spending and stating what they would do differently if elected.
When asked about the district’s need to cut $23 million if Issue 20 — a joint 4.06 property tax levy and a 0.5-percent earned income tax — fails Nov. 8, both said there are cuts the district has outlined that they would back.
One such cut, French said, is the elimination of 10 administrative positions.
“There are some things that need to be done,” she said.
Other things on the district’s proposed list of cuts, which includes arts, music and physical education programs, extracurricular activities, magnet schools and the International Baccalaureate program, could be spared in favor of other cuts, French said.
“A lot of that would hurt the kids. That’s not what we’re about,” she said. “There are other places to look to cut.”
When asked, Wilms said he does not back a proposal issued by the group Taxpayers for Westerville Schools calling for an across-the-board 15-percent cut of district employees’ salaries.
“It would be extremely difficult to implement because those employees are covered under bargaining agreements,” Wilms said.
If elected, he said he would work to hold the line on cost-of-living and step increases during renegotiation of the district’s union contracts, all four of which are set to expire June 30.
Another area Wilms would look to cut is eliminating the district practice of paying for all insurance benefits and employee pension share for 75 district administrators.
French said the district also needs to work harder to eliminate positions through attrition. For example, she said, it seems out of line that the district has 32 guidance counselors for its middle and high schools.