I will admit at the beginning of this letter that I do intend to vote "yes" on Issue 10.
To the editor:
I will admit at the beginning of this letter that I do intend to vote "yes" on Issue 10.
Why is it necessary during these tough economic times? Because schools are funded by public funds - in other words, taxes - and that funding has been significantly slashed by the state. Also, expenses have increased for the same reasons my expenses have grown, utilities, gas, groceries and insurance costs to name a few. Human resources are the largest part of the budget and the easiest to target but not the only one, and if you look at the real levy facts, concessions have and will be made by the employees.
It is my hope Our Community Our Schools will get the information out to all voters about the many cost-saving measures the district has taken and the comparisons of the budget and spending in this district with the other districts in this area.
I will say that I love this area, but if I were a potential home buyer now, I would not be looking in Westerville because of the current school situation and impending cuts and that does affect our community. If people feel they need to leave because of the taxes, good luck with selling your house and finding another area with lower school taxes in this area.
I believe the intervention services and extracurricular activities are very important to provide and unless residents attended a one-room school house, we have all benefited from them.
Do I believe the district should be responsible and diligent about spending my tax dollars? Absolutely, but I believe they are making every effort to do just that and would welcome any community input.
After all their work with the budget, we are talking about roughly $20 a month on a $100,000 house.
It is well worth the investment in our children and our community.
To the editor:
Westerville City Schools does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.
As can be seen in district annual financial reports, total revenue after the passage of the 2009 levy rose by $22.3 million per year by 2011. Yet, total expenses show only rising by $13.5 million in the same period. In the midst of a recession, expenses increased $13.5 million (and 82 percent goes to salaries and benefits) yet the district only gained 275 students.
Does it really cost us $49,000 to acquire a student? Had the administration not been forced into reviewing and controlling spending, they had planned to increase expenses by 39 percent by 2015 and have a $93 million total deficit (available from the fiscal year 2011 five-year forecast).
So we have 275 new students, a recession, residents' income decreasing, home values declining, delinquencies on the rise and the district's income rising from the 2009 levy. And what does the school board do? It spends.
Yes, it gets worse. With an influx of $20 million per year from the 2009 levy, the district planned to spend all of it and have a negative spending gap for this year (fiscal year 2012 ending June 30, 2012) - a $9.9 million deficit.
So let's review this again. In 2009, all was going smoothly (the district had a $5.3 million revenue to spending deficit) when the residents - barely - passed a levy that provides a planned $50.5 million in additional revenue thru 2012. The district adds fewer than 500 students (an estimate as I don't know the final enrollment number for 2012 yet). And, there are no known major program changes.
So in a time of poor economic conditions, a school district managing just fine in 2009 manages to make $50.5 million in additional revenue disappear without a substantial increase in student enrollment and without major program changes. To me, that is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem.
I say vote "no" on this levy. By managing spending, the district can do exactly what it wants without laying off one employee or reducing services or programs.
To the editor:
Last semester, my popular culture professor looked out into the seats in my classroom that held 50 students and asked, "Who has read a novel that illustrates the hero's journey?"
I was the only one to raise my hand. I was able to do this with the help of taking International Baccalaureate English my last two years of high school.
However, this is not the only advanced class that has propelled me ahead of students in my classes. This semester one of my professors asked, "Who has ever read the book 'Roots?'" Again, I was the only one to raise my hand in a lecture hall of more than 60 people.
These lessons help me in my human development and family studies major because I am able to speak with confidence on historical events that influence the lives of others'. Lastly, when I look at my planner and see resident adviser meetings, sorority meetings, work in the office of admissions, homework assignments and president's leadership academy meetings, I am able to balance all of these things due to the skills advanced classes in high school gave me.
I have a cumulative GPA of a 3.89 and a 4.0 in my major. I am advanced in my major so much that I could graduate a year early. I have a full academic scholarship and I am the only sophomore teacher's assistant in the department.
Although these are all my successes, I would not be as successful if I did not have the advancement programs that Westerville South provided me. Westerville has amazing teachers and amazing programs that prepare students for the future. My college professors are often taken aback when they hear of the intensiveness of the programs and the rigorous coursework I had in high school.
I worry that my sister who is in third grade will not be afforded the same opportunities I had in high school. I worry that when I come home from college, Westerville will be a failing district. I worry that the class of 2010 was the last to get a chance at an advanced future. South has given me so many opportunities and I am so thankful for them. Now as a college sophomore, I am so proud to be a Bowling Green State University Falcon; however, I am not sure I would be as successful as a Falcon, if I wasn't a Wildcat first. Once A Wildcat, Always a Wildcat.
To the editor:
Westerville residents need to have the following questions answered and find out exactly how their tax dollar is being spent.
A large chunk of your money does not go to educate your child.
Since Dan Good has been superintendent, how many property taxes have been put on the ballot? How much does Dan Good pay in Westerville property taxes? (Hint: He does not live in the district.)
How much does your tax dollar pay in administrative salaries per year? How many administrators are in the Westerville schools? How much does your tax dollar pay yearly for administrative bonuses? How much does your tax dollar pay for administrative health insurance? How much does your tax dollar pay for administrative retirement? How much does your tax dollar pay for administrative benefits such as meetings at golf courses, cell phones and mileage reimbursement?
Why has the board of education allowed this to happen?
How many people, especially senior citizens, have lost their homes because of the constant property tax increases How many families have lost their homes because of the property tax increases (sheriff sales)?
Why was a $3.5-million building purchased for administrative offices when we are closing schools? Why was $1.5 million spent on administrative furnishings for the building and an indoor playground that is used by eight children?
Why has kindergarten not been changed to all day Monday-Wednesday, Tuesday-Thursday and every other Friday to reduced busing costs? Why was the district operating three schools that housed 129 students each when other schools are overcrowded and students are being transported to other schools?
Why are we not using neighborhood schools to reduce busing costs? Why was artificial turf put on the football fields? Why are we constantly threatened with programs being cut, teachers and classified staff losing their jobs when they are the heart of the school system and we could eliminate at least 15 to 20 administrative positions and all administrative benefits?
To the editor:
I have had the pleasure and the frustration (at times) of working on the community committee to find a way to save our Westerville school music, theater and club extra- and co-curriculars. I feel it is necessary to inform others of the complexity of our task.
In addition to finding an alternate method of funding the $348,000 that was cut from the budget for these music, theater and club activities, our committee is faced with an even larger problem: We are losing the staff to lead these activities, because of the $3.2 million related arts staff cut.
Let's think about sustainability.
If we are not able to pass the levy in March, the related arts staffing cuts will be devastating. I have two boys in high school. They have had the experience of exposure to music throughout their years in Westerville City Schools: from participating in elementary classes with recorders, fifth-grade orchestra to sixth-grade band.
Did you know the kids actually get a chance to try the different band instruments at the end of fifth grade? Everything from clarinet to trombone. How exciting.
Fast forward to starting high school. Both of my kids enjoyed playing their instruments and definitely wanted to continue playing in the concert band but weren't so sure about marching band. If it weren't for the high school marching band director visiting and recruiting in middle school, both of my sons would have missed out on this experience.
Both now have had experiences that have kept them motivated academically and socially, creating a well-rounded student that universities and employers are looking for in today's competitive world.
We have learned from our own history how hard it is to build up a marching band. The directors at all three high schools do such an amazing job getting the kids involved and having enriched experiences: marching band football Friday nights and competitions, seasonal concerts, solo and ensemble contests, and all-state bands. We are losing the structure and resources that have helped get my children to where they are today.
My point is, at the current restructuring with music personnel (down to 12 teachers for the entire district), teachers who have never directed a band will be in some of these positions. Will they have the motivation to recruit and continue to build on the traditions that we have established?
Here's another issue: How will these kids get involved in the first place? With math, every year you add concepts so the child is ready for the next math class. You wouldn't expect that child to just jump in to algebra class without the prior course work. These kids will have no prior introduction to music at all until seventh grade. What kind of programs will we have in a few years?
So I ask the district, can't we look at every department for staff cuts? Has the district looked at possible budget savings across all programs? Can we fill class sizes to 25 or 30, and eliminate low-enrollment classes across every program - not just the arts - so we can restructure and eliminate expenses? I recommend looking at this instead of devastating the related arts programs, because they are not state mandated. Consider smaller staff cuts everywhere.
To my Westerville community - trust me when I say that this district will do the right thing and keep spending as lean as it can while maintaining quality programs. I know firsthand. I have met and spent a lot of my time on this since last November.
All of us have one common goal: to keep this district excellent. We desperately need your help. If we pass the levy in March, we have a better plan for keeping these programs in place and saving money. Without restoring related arts staff, it becomes impossible to continue these activities, even with the alternative fundraising structure that our committee is proposing. Please vote for the levy March 6.
To the editor:
Every Westerville resident needs to understand that the teachers' union, the NEA, is a labor union and its sole job is to elect Democrats, get more money into the education system and more pay for its members.
The NEA is not about education. It's about money and a political agenda. Unfortunately, the pro-levy people don't get this and are playing right into their hands. I'm sure most Westerville teachers truly care about the kids, but their loyalty is ultimately with the union because their pay and job security depends on it.
With that in mind, let's look at some numbers online at LevyFacts.org, LevyFacts.com, StateImpact.npr.org and ode.state.oh.us.
The school portion of my property tax bill has increased from $2,032 in 2000 to a projected $3,419 in 2013. That is a 68-percent increase in 13 years, which is more than twice the inflation rate. Is that sound fiscal management by our school board? Compare to the Bloom Carroll school district next to Canal Winchester. Their per pupil expenditures for 2010-2011 was $8,752 versus Westerville's $10,890 and they were able to achieve the same "Excellent with Distinction" rating. They were able to accomplish this because their average teacher salary was $53,167 and Westerville was $60,681 (14 percent higher).
Regarding salaries, a Westerville athletic director makes $100,000, plus $45,000 in benefits. Since he's an administrator, the taxpayer pays his full 24-percent pension benefit. He only pays 20 percent of health benefits, whereas the average private sector worker pays at least 30 percent. If he contributed 12 percent to his pension, 30 percent of health benefits and his salary was cut 10 percent, he would still make $90,000 for nine months' work.
A guidance counselor makes $113,000, plus $24,000 in benefits and a kindergarten teacher makes $90,000, plus $21,000 in benefits. Change their contributions to 12 percent of pension, 30 percent of health and cut their salaries 10 percent, they would still make $102,000 and $81,000, respectively.
Nice pay for 13 weeks off. In the last four years, district salaries climbed 19 percent, about 5 percent per year, as compared to taxpayer salaries rising only 8 percent (2 percent per year) during the same period. Since 2000, our cost per pupil has increased from $6,895 to $10,890, an increase of 58 percent while incomes only rose 20 percent.
This is why the compensation cuts need to be drastic enough to bring the schools back in line with the rest of us. Automatic longevity and education raises need to be eliminated, as well. Increases should be strictly based on performance and the district increase average should never exceed the average private sector increase. Our school board claims we won't attract good teachers and deliver acceptable results unless we continue to pay them a competitive wage, but statistics prove them wrong.
In Cleveland, significantly more charter school students are on grade level than their traditional public school counterparts, but charter schools spend about $4,000 less per student.
A "yes" vote kicks the can down the road, compromising our children's future, ensuring many of them will not be able to afford living here due to the ever-increasing property taxes.
A "no" vote shows more concern for our kids for several reasons. We could save more money for their college tuition, which is far more important and they could afford to raise their families here. Our property values may actually benefit because reining in costs will make our excellent schools more affordable than our neighboring districts.
Needed programs will remain, children will not suffer and home values will not drop if the main cuts are employee compensation. How about we become the first central Ohio district with the courage to stop this compensation madness and maybe the other central Ohio districts will follow our lead. This can definitely happen if we vote "no" on Issue 10 and take a stand for our children and their future.