Liverpool budget cuts jobs, raises taxes

Students and teacher at Wetzel Road school in Liverpool.

It was only about two months ago that the Liverpool School Superintendent asked for community volunteers to serve on a Long Range Facility Planning Committee. The committee was seen as a group that could make recommendations to the school board if a school needed to be closed. On Wednesday night Liverpool's Superintendent, Dr. Richard Johns, acknowledged he has circumvented that board and will make a recommendation to close a school on his own.

Monday night, Johns will present a budget to the school board that raises taxes, cuts jobs and closes at least one school. The superintendent revealed to a group of parents and district volunteers that his plan will cut 131 positions. All of these measures are being implemented to make up for a $10 million budget deficit created partly due to a decrease in anticipated state aid. Johns says those savings and other cuts should cover approximately $9 million of the gap.

About forty volunteers on the committee toured Soule Road Elementary and Middle School Wednesday night. From classrooms to lockers, they got a chance to see how everything works. Members of the committee said even if their mission had been adjusted, their work would continue.

"Different items that still need to be addressed including the potential of closing a second building at some point in the future is something that has to be taken seriously," said Jim Stoddard.

Johns apologized to the Long Range Facility Planning committee for unilaterally deciding one school has to close when he has tasked the group with researching which of the district's elementary schools could be closed to save money. Stoddard is the leader of that committee. He said despite the superintendent's decision the committee's work needs to continue, "different items that still need to be addressed including the potential of closing a second building at some point in the future is something that has to be taken seriously."

"I no longer could ignore the reality that if I didn't close a building I'd be cutting out a like amount of dollars in educational program," said Johns. "We've got to downsize our entire organization to conform not only to our enrollment but to what our budget is going to be realistically."

School Board President Patricia Mouton told that the school that is slated for closing is Wetzel Road Elementary. Johns would not confirm which school he recommends for closure. Parents of children who attend the school have vowed to fight to keep the building open, calling it the best elementary school in the district.

Superintendent Johns told the committee that more positions may need to be cut if the school board does not approve enough of a property tax increase to total $1.1 million in additional revenue for the district. He has also said that the closing of a second school next year was a real possibility.

The Liverpool School Board meets on Monday, February 8th at 7:00 p.m. at the Liverpool High School. The meeting has been moved there to accommodate an expected large crowd.