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Eastwood system seeks opinions on options for savings

The Eastwood Local School System is asking the public for opinions on how the district can best cut its budget for next year - by closing an elementary school or reducing staff and course offerings at the middle and high schools.

Superintendent Brent Welker outlined the options for cutting $650,000 from the budget for the 2011-12 school year at a public forum Monday evening at the high school. A second forum on the proposed budget reductions is set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Webster Elementary School.

The goal: to maintain a balanced budget without additional tax dollars.

"We just feel it's better to get out and talk to our people early and allow them to understand what we want to do and why we want to do it," Mr. Welker said.

"We want to give them plenty of time to ask questions because the budget reductions we are going to get into are going to be felt more significantly than what's happened in the past."

The school district expects income to decline because of state budget cuts as well lower income tax collections because of the economic downturn and the impending expiration of a $480,000 annual payment in lieu of taxes from Troy Energy.

Closing Webster Elementary, which has just 150 students in K-5 this year, makes sense, Mr. Welker said, because of the district's declining enrollment.

If the building on State Rt. 199 near St. Rt. 105 were closed, students in K-4 would be divided between Pemberville and Luckey elementaries, and fifth graders would go to the middle school, he said.

Closing the school would save an estimated $600,000 a year. The district could cut $50,000 more by eliminating some supplemental contracts, such as assistant coaches.

If the community does not support closing Webster, Mr. Welker said, the district would have to consider cutting elective courses - such as foreign language, art, and business - and teachers at the middle and high schools. The board could consider going from half-day kindergarten to all-day, every-other-day kindergarten, which would reduce transportation costs, he said.

"Quite frankly, those reductions are going to impact students to a very high degree," he said.

In addition to reducing the budget for 2011-12 by $650,000, the school board plans to cut $300,000 to $400,000 for the 2012-13 school year.

In 2007, Eastwood closed Lemoyne Elementary in Stony Ridge. It has since sold the building, but Mr. Welker said he would anticipate mothballing Webster Elementary for now if it is closed next year.

"In the 51 or 52-year history of the district, we've gone up to almost 2,000 students, then dropped to almost 1,500, then risen and dropped again," he said. "Because of the ebb and flow of the student population over time, we would continue to own and maintain Webster for the eventuality that we probably would need it again at some point."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

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