CAMBRIDGE CITY — A significant decrease in annual funding, due in large part to declining enrollment, has backed Western Wayne Schools into a corner to either increase property taxes or cut student programs, officials say.

Since 2010, Western Wayne has made a myriad of budget cuts that resulted in the loss of seven classroom teachers and a pair of special education teachers at the elementary level, 13 teachers and a guidance counselor in the middle/high school building and countless more services. Even with a handful of cuts to adjust to the state's decrease in annual funding by $1.8 million over the past 12 years, Western Wayne has been forced to rely on its Rainy Day Fund for years to balance its budget at year's end.

Over the past five years, Western Wayne has used $1 million of its Rainy Day Fund. The fund's balance currently sits at $804,908 and Western Wayne superintendent George Philhower knows the corporation can no longer depend on this fund moving forward.

On Tuesday night, Philhower was joined by approximately 50 community members in Lincoln High School's cafeteria as he explained Western Wayne's remaining two options: Make additional cuts to reach a balanced budget each year, eventually cutting programs, or operating a referendum.

"I had no clue if we'd get five people or if we'd get 105," Philhower said. "I am really excited that we had this many people show up. If I were the one who made all of the decisions for this campaign, we're just going to have a lot of honest conversations and transparency about 'Here's what we spend on what.' We'll answer every single question that anybody asks and that can't happen if people don't show up to meetings or call or email me with questions. Any time we have a meeting and people show up, that's potential progress."

With a referendum up for vote at Wednesday night's school board meeting to appear on a May ballot, here's five things you should know:
Copyright © 2020 www.pal-item.com.