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Woodland Hills Struggles to Make $2.4 Million in Cuts to Balance Budget

The school board and administrators face an uphill battle in reaching a balanced budget before June 30.

In a school district that has lost more than $9 million in state funds over the course of two years, Substitute Superintendent Al Johnson said the next budget’s proposed cuts are already down to the bone—and about to dig into the marrow.

“We’re fighting for our lives here,” Johnson said.

with the district’s yearly cost of paying for charter school tuitions and more—$13.5 million—and the situation at Woodland Hills becomes clear. The school board is examining programs, transportation and jobs line by line in an effort to cut $2.4 million to balance the proposed budget by June 30—the final state deadline.

Johnson is filling in for Superintendent Walter Calinger,

While the board previously discussed the , that proposal is now off of the table, which is why members are now scouring to make reductions elsewhere.

Johnson said they couldn’t humanistically let small children walk in ice and snow.

“We are going to eliminate some runs and consolidate some runs,” he said. “We may have a larger bus that is completely full.”

A plan to eliminate kindergarten programs also was discussed, but that option is no longer included in the current proposed budget. But the cuts will come down elsewhere, Johnson said. Reductions in transportation also could be made at the local charter schools, along with certain programs that are being looked at by each school.

Foreign language programs may be cut or reduced, while physical plant, maintenance and custodial workers could lose their jobs or have their hours reduced. Overtime will be strictly limited and furloughs for teachers, administrators and support staff also could come into the final budget. Classes could be combined to consolidate as well.

“We are discussing all of these things right now,” Johnson said. “Even if all of these cuts amount to $2.4 million, we have to be cautious because we’d have no reserve left. I can’t go into the next school year without that.”

If cuts are made and a reserve is still not in place for the district, Johnson said the board may be asked to vote on a small tax increase that would amount to less than a mill or so.

“We’re trying not to do that,” he said. “It’s been four years with no increase and we want to make it five.”

Johnson said the financial situation cannot be credited to mismanagement by the school board or administrators, but rather the one-two punch of Corbett’s cuts to education across the state paired with charter school costs.

Johnson thinks it’s time for charter school reform at the state level to take the burden off of the public schools.

“We’re just not able to manage both of these at the same time,” he said. “It’s not equitable. If it was, we could work with that.”

Johnson said that on the up side, the teachers have reached a contract agreement and he hopes to achieve the same with support staff contracts as well very soon. He said it’d be a morale boost for the whole district.

In addition, he said the board is working hard to approve a budget well before the June 30 deadline to decrease anxieties among parents, teachers, district workers and Woodland Hills families.

“We are going line by line,” he said. “It’s draining—but we owe it to the taxpayers.”

What do you think about the budget situation that Woodland Hills faces? Tell us in the comments.

swissvale tax payer May 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Been in the district 20 + years , have a child in the highschool , Own a home , and pay taxes. Why do we need an Academy in the district ? Just more wasted taxpayer expense to me. Oh it is located in a school building we was told prior to the Academy being formed, that was in need of major repair East Jr High building. The reason they combined the East , West Jr High School, to the West building. As for the "Awards" at that school , if it is not the whole school district making the passing grade its not any.
Forest Hills Mom May 25, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I have three kids going to school in the district and it frustrates me that they put so many resources into the Academy when my kids deserve just as much. I don't want my kids to have a longer school day or year, but I would sure like them to get a quality education. They don't need iPod touches and Kindles to learn. We had chalkboards, paper, and pencils and we learned just fine. They didn't get as much back from the Academy as they put in, and they should have thought of that before they opened it, and when they were working on the budget.
Proud of Woodland Hills May 25, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Please do not put all of the blame on the Academy. The Academy was opened as a way to test resources and strategies that could be pushed out into the rest of the district. Because of the Academy other buildings have behavior specialists who help students deal with problems, iPod touches, and interventionists for math and reading. The Academy has also brought many families back into the district when they would have otherwise sent their children to charter schools- a decision that would have cost the district more money because of the inequity in funding. We may have learned with chalkboards, paper, and pencils, but this generation does not learn that way because they have not been raised in that fashion. Growing up, I went home and read a book or played outside, these children are constantly connected to technology- they need to learn through similar means. Let us not attack a building that was created in order to improve the district as a whole. Let us not attack the resources that we are lucky to have available for our students. Let us look to our government and insist that our schools be funded fairly.
Nancy Ganster May 28, 2012 at 08:59 PM
If you had a better School District people would not leave. Spend more money on good teachersnand less money on Sports. When I went to school, we had books, paper, pencil and we did well. And I had four boys that also went to school here and used the same items and have done very well for themself. And they did sport and did not have all the fancy thing you have now. We can not pay for and IPad with the taxes we have to pay in School Taxes. Then you drain ths pockets of the Senior Citizens who live on a fixed budget. Give them a break.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pat O'Neil May 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
"Johnson said they couldn’t humanistically let small children walk in ice and snow." Yeah. Kids hate ice and snow. I know, why don't we cancel school when there is ice and snow. That way the kids can stay home or go outside and play with their friends while walking in the ice and snow .....
Forestfather May 31, 2012 at 07:23 PM
You can't make up a $2.4 million deficit by cutting some Ipads and supplies, or a few programs; furthermore, what looks like a frill to one parent or community member will look essential to another, as the comments above suggest. If we want to have decent public schools, we will have to pay for them. There is no virtue in not raising taxes if we get less value for our money by keeping them at the same level--and that is precisely the situation that seems to be in the works. Our taxes will not go up, but our schools will continue a downward spiral. Administration and school directors should "man up" and budget the necessary tax increase. If the community is unhappy about that, vote them out of office. Sometimes you have to pay for doing the right thing, too.
Pat Schaefer June 01, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Attended the Finance Committee meeting Wednesday. NOT THERE to hear the proposals: Driscoll, Clanagan, Kuhn, Hanchett and Tomasic. THERE and listening to concerns: Messina, Reis, Filiak. A number if things are proposed to be done: cutting programs, furloughs, cutting Academy hours to regular school hours, "repurposing" buildings... One proposal is to move the Adminstration to EP, to disperse the EP students already there to other schools, and expand and move the Promise Program now 1-12 grade into EP. There were alternatives to that proposal offered and hopefully being considered. EP, an elementary school in the District that passes state testing requirements . EP parents from Braddock Hills, Ewood, and Forest hills were there and spoke, asked questions. To speak at the Agenda meeting on 6/6 7:30pm email joyce@whsd.net with your name, address, phone and topic you are speaking on. 2 minutes. Legislative meeting 6/13,7:30pm you also must register before hand to speak.
Jenn Alfieri June 13, 2012 at 09:40 PM
EDGEWOOD ELEMENTARY PARENT AND RESIDENT: Please consider attending TONIGHT'S WHSD School Board Meeting (Wednesday, june 13th) in which several significant items such as CLOSING Edgewood Elementary and re-purposing the building with an Alternative Program for students with significant behavior issues...You needed to register by yesterday to speak prior to the public comment section (unfortuantely, I think this is after they vote) during the meeting, but showing up (with a sign that the School Board can see for instance) may help to save our neighborhood school and help prevent the displacement of >450 young students.

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