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Crestwood Layoffs Reduced; Controversy Continues

WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The Crestwood Area School Board announced Wednesday it is reducing the number of teacher layoffs from 13 to four, but that may only save teacher jobs for another year.

The president of the board admitted the school system is playing "kick the can" with a budget crisis. If parents and taxpayers want to avoid even more layoffs next year, the school says people will have to accept a steep hike in property taxes.

Outside the news conference, a makeshift picket line including parents like Shelley Rodgers made their voices heard.

"Everyone is extremely supportive, lots of beeping," Rodgers said.

The group is protesting plans to build a controversial field house at the football field, and they're protesting the layoff of 13 teachers.

"We could have 35 kids per class for one teacher. That's outrageous," Rodgers added.

"The board has identified temporary cost-saving measures to get us through this year," explained Crestwood Area Superintendent Joseph Gorham.

At an afternoon news conference, Gorham announced the school system will take more than $1 million out of its reserve fund to reduce the proposed layoff from 13 teachers to four.

But the Crestwood school board said steeper cuts will have to be made next year unless voters approve a 15 percent tax increase, which is scheduled to be on next year's ballot.

"We're kicking the can down the road for one more year, but we also have some stability that people are asking for," said Bill Jones, Crestwood School Board chair.

The school board added it will soon reveal new plans to make schools safer, and construction on that controversial $1.6 million field house will continue.

Rodgers is happy fewer teachers will be laid off, but she worries the Crestwood schools will be in worse shape if voters are asked to approve a 15 percent increase in school property taxes.

"A 15 percent tax increase will drop our property values. No one will move here. That's ridiculous," Rodgers said.

The school board meets Thursday night. Members expect to approve the plan to reduce the layoffs, build the field house, and let voters decide if they want a tax hike in 2019.

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