Westwood ahead of schedule on budget

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Westwood Community Schools is ahead of schedule in working its way out of its budget deficit and close to hanging a new scoreboard over the football field at Robichaud High School.

The announcements were made during the September 19 board of trustees meeting.

Westwood began the 2013-14 year with a deficit of just over $6 million, but through fundraising and budget tightening the district expect to cut that number to $3.09 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

At the Aug. 15 board meeting, the deficit was projected at just under $3.1 million.

Westwood Director of Finances Brian Jones said the new number was not substantially lower, but the district is “heading in the right direction.”

Jones added that the district has a few more tweaks to make to the deficit elimination plan and has been asked by the Michigan Department of Education to conduct a flux analysis plan of its finances to continue to make sure it stay on point with its operating budget.

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 due to legislation changes brought on by the passing of Public Act 65 of 2013, which went into effect on 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 a deficit elimination plan had been submitted to the state or if it has the capability to implement the plan and still meet the obligation of providing educational services.

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

Also at the meeting, Westwood Director of Operations David Still said the stadium scoreboard for Robichaud is almost ready to be installed.

“We’re working out the time to hang it up, but we want to have it up as soon as possible,” Still said.

Still added that the administration hopes to have the scoreboard up before their homecoming football game Oct. 4.

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