Parents demand answers from Wayne-Westland school district following $17M budget shortfall

Many parents voiced their frustration at Wayne-Westland Community Schools officals after an audit revealed a budget shortfall of $17.6 million.

Wayne-Westland's general fund went from $26.9 million in 2022 to $9.2 million in 2023, after officials believed they had a surplus. The district collected approximately $135 million in revenue but had expenses of $152 million.

At a Wednesday school board meeting, parents wanted to know what caused the financial issues.

"You had said that a lot of the discrepancies was done by somebody who's no longer with the district. So, in the end – who sees those final numbers before they get published? Before they get released to the schools, the teachers, the programs? Who puts their final seal of approval on those numbers?" one parent asked.

As budget cuts are anticipated, uncertainty looms over the job security of school staff. Ashley Howarth, an elementary building substitute, is among those who are unsure about their future.

"It has caused a lot of us to feel very stressed and overwhelmed," Howarth said. "It has personally caused me a lot of physical stress in my own body and I can’t perform my job at the same status as I normally would."

An investigation is underway, said the Wayne-Westland Community Schools administration in a statement, stressing that the discrepancy is not the result of deliberate miscalculation or misconduct. 

The administration added that school budgets have become more complex due to the inflow of COVID-19 funds. 

"At this moment right now we don’t know exactly where we are, but we know that we’ve got a tremendous problem that has to be addressed," said the Wayne-Westland School Board President David Cox.

According to parents, the District has an excessive number of administrators, and they are concerned that the budget cuts might disproportionately affect teachers and paraprofessionals rather than administrative staff.

"We look at the top! We look and see," another parent said. "I don’t want anybody to lose their job."