Westwood plans to eliminate deficit by June 2015

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – The Westwood Community Schools Board of Education is confident it will be able to bring the district out of the debt by the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year.

Westwood began the 2013-14 year with a deficit of just over $6 million, but through fundraising and budget tightening board members expect to cut almost $3 million of that debt. The number was announced by the district’s director of finances, Brian Jones, at the Aug. 15 board of education meeting.

Jones said the district also is projecting that it will receive 162 students from the recently dissolved Inkster School District, which will bring the district’s student count to 2,715.

“The additional students will result in an increase in revenue for the district, and even with adding in the salaries of two additional instructional staff members to accommodate the new students – which are vacant positions that we have not filled yet – our deficit would still be reduced to $3.086 million at the end of 2013-14,” Jones said.

He added that this amount is about $4,000 better than the deficit elimination plan the state approved.

“If we continue on this track, the numbers also show that we would break even by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year,” Jones said.

Westwood is in the third year of a state-approved plan to eliminate its deficit. The plan has a five-year lifetime and requires an annual approval by the state.

By having an approved deficit plan in place, Westwood hopes to avoid a takeover of the district under Public Act 65 of 2013, which went into effect July 2.

The Act gives the state superintendent of public instruction and state treasurer the ability to jointly decide to dissolve a school district if six criteria are not met, including the financial viability of the district, the number of students in the district (300 to 2,400) and whether or not a deficit elimination plan had been submitted to the state or if they had the capability to implement the plan and still meet the obligation of providing educational services.

Inkster, which had a budget deficit of around $15.8 million, was the first district in the state to be dissolved because of Act 96.

Also at the meeting, it was confirmed by Westwood Director of Operations David Still that students entering the district from Inkster schools will be eligible to play sports for the district with no penalty.

“Because Inkster High School was closed, all of the students regardless of the school they go to will be eligible to participate in sports,” Still said. “The key component is that the high that they were attending when school ended closed. That makes them eligible to play for our school.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)