Robert Bodi running for Westlake School Board

The Westlake School District is currently heading into a period of deep fiscal crisis, but you would be hard-pressed to see this fact being reported in our news media or by our politicians. If you rely on their analysis, you would think that just because American Greetings is moving to Westlake, that all is rosy in this district. This is far from the case.

The reality is that the school district is facing a $3.4 million deficit by the end of this school year, one that increases every year to a whopping $12.4 million annually by 2015, which works out to over $850 per Westlake household! How did we get here?

Considering that about 86% of the district budget is personnel costs, and the fact that Westlake currently ranks 17 out of 611 Ohio districts in professional salaries, the answer is clear: Our school board has failed in its fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of Westlake. The current board has capitulated to the special interests, such as the teachers’ union, by spending its rainy day fund of over $23 million dollars into oblivion by 2014.

Westlake is a wonderful community in which to live, work and teach. The parents are deeply involved, the students are highly motivated, the curriculum is broad-based. There is no logical reason for Westlake to rank in the top 3% in Ohio in teacher’s salaries to “attract” good teachers. So why do the current board members insist that we must pay teachers and administrators far above what most other districts pay to keep them in this community?

The idea that these professionals are primarily motivated by the size of their paychecks should be taken as an insult! Cleveland, now there is a district that needs to offer substantial premiums in order to entice good teachers to work there. But Westlake? Such premiums are just not required to attract good people, and are no longer affordable.

In these current difficult economic times, the Westlake taxpayer is not likely to reward poor fiscal stewardship with yet more taxes. Thus, absent a large tax increase in the near future, the district is going to have to cut programs and personnel, and cut big: At an average salary of $70,000, the district would have to lay off around half of all its teachers to balance the budget in 2015. 

Do you think that the district will maintain its educational excellence without half of its teachers? Of course not. Already, the district has cut 17 teachers and has eliminated busing at a time when it still has over $20 million in the bank. Imagine what is on the horizon when that money is gone? It will not be pretty. And it will not be good for our community. Or our children.

That is why it is time for new leadership in the district, and that I why I am running for the Westlake School Board. Don’t reward those who got you into this mess with more opportunities to drive the district even deeper into trouble. I promise to represent all of the taxpayers of Westlake, and ensure that fiscal responsibility is put at the top of the agenda in this district. Educational excellence cannot be maintained absent good fiscal management of the school system.

Read More on Letters to the Editor
Volume 3, Issue 21, Posted 10:30 AM, 10.20.2011