Lakewood voters will vote on a school levy on the April 27 Special Election ballot that is the district’s last chance to receive funds for programs and staff that will otherwise be cut next school year.
The educational programs and operations levy is meant to fund teachers, staff such as nurses, and programs such as athletics that are not fully covered by state funding.
Most school districts in the state have an educational programs and operations levy and Lakewood had one for several years before voters rejected renewing their levy two different times in 2020.
Lakewood property owners paid $2.18 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the levy in 2020 and district officials are proposing a levy that will cost $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value to replace that beginning in 2022.
The newest levy measures represents a smaller tax from the district than they had previously proposed in their 2020 levy measures.
Local property owners did not pay any property tax for this specific levy in 2021, although still did for other taxes.
The Lakewood School District responded to the budget shortfall this year by using some of their reserve funds, typically saved for district emergencies, but they will be unable to do that in the 2021-22 school year.
On March 31 the district’s board of directors approved a resolution announcing what the cuts will be next year if the levy doesn’t pass.
They are required to announce any reductions in staff by April 15 because of contracts with the local teacher and staff unions, according to Lakewood School District Superintendent Scott Peacock. “If the levy doesn’t pass, we won’t have a levy collection for the 2021-22 school year."
For the 2021-22 school year that is an estimated $2.5 million reduction and for the 2022-23 school year it is an estimated $3.4 million reduction.
The list of approved reductions for 2021-22 include cutting eight K-12 teachers, three elementary school counselors, the secondary school librarians, two and a half nursing positions, two library para-educator positions and district-level administration, including the director of teaching and learning.
Activities such as drama, creative writing and other non-athletic extracurricular activities will have their stipends cut.
Post-season funding for athletics will not be available, although this doesn’t mean teams are automatically disqualified from post-season play.
Middle and high school athletic C teams would be cut.
The budget reduction was looked over by 40 different community members.
“Many different community members looked at our budget areas,” said Peacock, including parents, community members and staff.
“I appreciate the fact that we had parents, community members, classified staff, certificated staff working on this,” he said.
The discussion was challenging as many different desires had to be balanced.
“These are very, very difficulty decisions around priorities and we came out on the other side with a proposal of reductions that we agree we can make,” said Peacock.
If the educational programs and operations levy does pass the district still has time to rescind these reductions through, said Peacock.
“It allows us to continue to maintain our athletic and other programs,” he said. Programs such as the district’s “vocational program that prepares our students for life after high school,” he added.
There are 23 teachers in total the levy helps pay for and “42 staff members in total who teach classes and support our kids,” he said.
Staff such as additional nurses and custodians are funded through the levy, said Peacock.
“The money this provides goes a long way toward maintaining the programs that we run,” he said.
Ballots were mailed for the levy decision on April 8 and are due by 8 p.m. on April 27.