In the direction of unity….

In the direction of unity…..

With the first day of school upon us in late August, we enter into the comfortable routines of a new school year.  Each year begins with the hope and prayer of a fresh beginning on both sides of the fence, teachers praying for well-behaved students and children fervently praying for “nice” teachers.

The new year also brings with it new employment contracts with our support staff and our teachers. Combine that with the technology plan being assembled and implemented, new buses for our children’s safety, a sustainable facilities maintenance plan, a tax break for our taxpayers, and our district is in an entirely different situation from recent years when wave after wave of levy campaigns sought to raise taxes.

Circumstances may change; however, if we maintain our fiscal conservative spending patterns and husband our resources wisely, no new taxes are projected.

My place at the table is to represent the community—the taxpayer, the landowner, the voter. My fiduciary duty is also to this institution.  It is important to remember I represent the voice of those who pay for our local schools. Tonight, we step forward for our teachers and our community. In doing so, we are demonstrating that as our voices come together we can write a single, better, unified story. It is not a story of the past, always disregarding the needs of the district. It is not a story of teachers and staff holding out for more. It is not a story of higher taxes (in fact, just the opposite). This is a story where everyone wins.

Although we occasionally may disagree with the means to an end, the final goal is the same for all involved: a better education for our children.

Through Children First Budgeting, zero based budgets, sound leadership, plans that prioritize educational needs, infrastructure and our staff, it is possible and now proven that we can live within our means. These phrases imply debt or sacrifice, but that is not the case. Not only have we proven that we can live within our means, but now every stakeholder in this district—our students and families, our staff and teachers, and our taxpayers–will benefit from this board’s leadership.

First, our students benefit as we direct funds to textbooks, curriculum, new buses, technology, and we dedicate attention to supports for college and career—STEM, PSEO, AP courses and more.

I have stated in that past and it is worth repeating, that it is impossible to educate a child without skilled teachers and staff and without giving them the tools to be successful. With these new contract agreements, every teacher, every staff member, every employee, every custodian, and every bus driver of the Springboro Community City Schools will be paid more. They will be rewarded for their skills and commitment to our schools and our children.

In any negotiation, especially collective bargaining, each party must at least be willing to move forward knowing neither of us will get everything we want.  I am willing to make the commitment to pay our teachers as they requested and they are willing to take reformative steps in their salary schedule and health benefits that respect the values of our entire community.

This agreement with our teachers must be more than a promise that sits on the shelf. The agreement to establish a merit / performance pay committee and diligently work with the health care committee, will dictate actions that demonstrate accountability by both sides. We all must strive with our best intentions to make sustainability the priority—to work within our current revenue rather than insist we need more.

The community can see after just 18 months that Children First Budgeting works. It is transparent and inclusive, and it drives our attention and resources toward investments in facilities, technology and teachers. It is most evident in the new contracts.

But what will be most evident to the taxpayer is lower taxes. Even after plans to invest millions in technology, curriculum, buildings and buses, and even after providing every employee with raises, we are financially prepared to give something back to the taxpayer – to give back to our community by reducing their tax burden. The renewal levy on the ballot in November will be set at a lower mileage rate to reduce taxes generated by that levy by nearly 15 percent.

This reduction of almost 15 percent is equal to $1,353,800 per year ($6,769,000 over 5 years) that we are giving back to our community. That’s right, every homeowner in the Springboro Community City School District will receive a raise just like our staff!  Children First Budgeting makes sense and today everyone wins.

Steven Covey says that, “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” So now we put the words—spun in social media, exclaimed in online petitions, threatening as well as entreating, angry as well as earnest—behind us. We’ve emerged stronger than before.

Congratulations to our board, to our central office staff, to our teachers and students, and to our community. All sides were heard – and the outcome is fair to all sides. All have gained ground. And that success can only continue if we act in good faith to work together to put Children First.

 

In the direction of “fair”!

In the direction of “fair”

An online petition is circulating that demands our Board of Education “settle a fair contract with our teachers now!” I could not agree more. In January 2013, our school board requested that we open negotiations early, but the Ohio Education Association and Springboro Education Association refused stating there would be plenty of time. With the first day of school (August 26) waiting on the horizon, I only wish the teachers’ union had allowed us to open negotiations earlier. Indeed, the petition’s request is spot on, but the drama—the implication that school board members do not want to reach a fair contract–sadly continues to divide our community.

It all hinges on that word “fair.” We’ve received a lot of email appealing for “fairness,” but not one attempted to describe what is fair.  Fair is not one-sided.  It implies there are two competing interests, not just one.

If “fair” could be defined in concrete terms, years of debating funding formulas for Ohio’s schools would have been avoided.

What’s fair?

For example, the proposed re-instituted step salary schedule amounts to between 3% and 4.75% automatic pay increases per year for most teachers. Are step raises—automatic pay increases tied to nothing more than the calendar—fair? The idea of rewarding service and commitment over time sounds fair for some, while others would like to know why raises are not tied to student achievement? Is a salary schedule “fair” when successful  teachers are paid exactly on par with the unsuccessful? Who suffers most under this system that incentivizes mediocrity, our children and their education.

Is it fair that our teachers received a minimum increase of 1.5% per year for the last three years, but still called that raise a pay freeze? How can pay go up when it is frozen? Furthermore, during the recession, no teacher lost his or her job.  As a matter of fact, the Full Time Equivalents (FTE) in our district increased, while the rest of the economy decreased.  Would it have been fairerto pay our teachers in sync with our community when many in our community lost their jobs, received no raise at all, or made salary concessions to keep their employer in business and keep their job?

When the wealth of a community measured by residential property values decreases by 10% over the last five years, what is a fair salary increase for that school district’s employees?

When community members see health insurance costs skyrocket, is it fair that public employees maystrike to keep up paying only 15% for medical insurance? According to surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation as well as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, average private-sector employees with single coverage contribute 21 to 25% of health insurance premiums, and the average employee with family coverage pays 27%.   The average means that some pay less while others pay much more.

Is it fair to even have this conversation without mentioning our children?  Was it fair to them when previous administrations scuttled plans for textbooks, technology, major building repairs and replacements,  buses and more? While the district appeared to be sailing well, in reality it was drifting without clear direction. A year ago, our district faced a sort of “perfect storm” with needs for everything from buses and books to technology and staffing coming to the surface at the same time. Through good management and some good fortune, our once rudderless ship emerged from that storm with clear leadership and direction. Clearly there are still challenges, but we are moving in the direction of putting Children First.

At the core of Children First budgeting is our staff–making sure we have sufficient staff, that our staff have the materials and training they need to excel, and that they are fairly compensated.

Some assume we’re making catastrophic cuts while others assume we will need more taxes. Neither is true. There are dark rumor clouds swirling through Springboro that cuts will come through our current contract negotiations; rather we have offered every employee a raise.  Some would say that is not only fair, but generous given the fact our economy is still struggling in many sectors. A story in the Dayton Daily News notes that the second largest employer in the country behind Wal-Mart is now a temporary employment agency.

While many wish to cast a negative light on our school district and its leadership, I hope everyone can celebrate the agreement reached between the Springboro Board of Education and the Springboro Classified Employees Association (SCEA), the union representing bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other non-teaching staff.  These are the support staff that makes our district go and many of these people literally have not had a raise in five years.

Highlights of that agreement include:

•           Step raises for three years. (Step raises are automatic pay increases built into an existing salary schedule generally to compensate for the effects of inflation.)

•           $1,000 annual stipend for three years for those who are not on steps.

             •           Employees will pay 20% for healthcare insurance; the district will pay 80% of the premium.

Now, I hope we find a balance that compensates our teachers in conjunction with the important investments to be made in our buildings and facilities, technology and curriculum. This is not an either or situation, both must be done with our given revenue stream to ensure a healthy district into the future.

To learn more for yourself, the contract proposals are online at http://www.Springboro.org. Click on negotiations updates.

In the direction of common sense, continued

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

–Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

When the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in the summer of 1776, the population of our nation is estimated to have been about 2.5 million people. Today, the United States population is more than 315 million people. The Declaration has grown with our nation to symbolize individual and national liberty throughout the world.

Jefferson stated that, “This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and form as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.”

–Thomas Jefferson.    

At one time, it was both grand, and also common sense. With the Declaration, the founding fathers unified the 13 colonies in a single direction. Though we see perfection in it today, we know that Jefferson’s early draft was heavily critiqued and edited. Even though it was common sense, it changed the status quo. It changed the course and gave entirely new direction to the colonies, as they became an emerging and sovereign nation.

Events throughout history and even locally today bear some resemblance. What is simply stated common sense may appear to be the most radical. As we’ve sought to improve communications, transparency and budgeting in Springboro schools, we’ve seemed radical to some. But in fact, its common sense to put kids first, to form plans for purchasing textbooks and technology, and to attend to the basics such as roofs and buses. For too long, the district appeared to work very well, but it lacked clear direction. With no plan for textbooks, technology, capital improvements, buses and more, there was no larger course charted for our schools.

This common sense approach does not strip the district of its traditions or diversity. It does not ignore it accomplishments and honors, including “Excellent with Distinction.” It simply gives us a unifying direction that extends beyond any individual building or year.

Look for future blog posts to articulate how I believe we are leading the district toward success.

In the direction of common sense, Part II

In response to “In the direction of common sense” entry, a reader named School District Voter noted that, “Of almost equal moment to the Declaration of Independence was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Jefferson in 1779. The statute established the separation of church and state and the principle of religious toleration: “Almighty God hath created the mind free… all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do …the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time…”

While it’s not economical to include it here in its entirety, it is important to note that the statute ends with this action. “Be it enacted by the General assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, not shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. Indeed, “All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

History tells us that the founding fathers held diverse views. Instead of allowing differences to divide and defeat them, they found common ground. They found common sense within the harmonies of their arguments. Today, “argue” carries a negative connotation like fight or struggle. But argue simply means to support your point of view with evidence.

As parents, as educators, as a community invested in its youth, it is our responsibility to share the tools and skills for argument. We are free to profess and argue our beliefs. Are we preparing the next generation to exercise that freedom, to know the fullness of history, to profess their individual beliefs and to argue for them?

In the direction of common sense – Part I

In the direction of common sense.

“This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and form as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.”

–Thomas Jefferson.    

On the cusp of celebrating the independence of the United States of America, our Board of Education announced two summer courses on the Constitution. The timing is entirely a coincidence, but it perfectly frames the argument.

From the outside looking in, independently offered community education classes on the Constitution would use school district classrooms during the summer and after-school hours. This is wholly unremarkable. Similar courses are shared online, in hotel ballrooms and family living rooms across our country. But in Springboro, they engender headlines and panic, calls for Board members’ resignations and threats of legal action. Community education has been raised to scandal status.

Why?

Bringing classes like these onto our campus allows a unique opportunity to offer community education while also inviting families and taxpayers to review potential curriculum.

The hyperbolical efforts by a few to cancel these Constitution classes ironically seek to limit free speech and assembly. But as I work toward listening to all sides and representing the fullness of our school district, I examined the critics’ concerns.  I believe in the goal to teaching the principals of our constitution in a historically accurate manner.  To that end, I am unclear based on the controversy, if these programs can achieve that goal.

Our district’s recent debates over the Constitutional courses, controversial topics including creation and even negotiations point to a serious need for civil, reasoned dialogue and debate. It’s easy for us to look at the parchment of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution and see only the final page in its ideal form. However, history is rich with stories of argument and angst as the founders of our nation came together to form this union of states.

It is time to read and revisit, discuss and debate our founding documents. In doing so, the only religion promoted is what Abraham Lincoln called the “political religion of the nation.” In his speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois in 1838, Lincoln said “As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; . . . Let reverence for laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;–let it preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”

It is our common history. The founding documents transcend politics. As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s use their example to guide us in the direction of common sense.

It’s Unanimous – School Board Adopts Children’s First Budget!

Educate Springboro

What is a child centric budget?  It’s a budget that provides all of the resources to educate children first, while investing in highly qualified staff at every level.  At every level, our administration and teachers strive for the highest standards of achievement and professionalism.  That is why a Children’s First Budget makes sense. 

It makes sense for teachers because we invest in the tools and equipment necessary to help them do what they do best – teach.  It makes sense for the taxpayer, because it allows a board of education to manage it’s taxpayer provided resources just like every person does in their homes.  But most of all, it makes sense for our students because it prioritizes what they most need, by targeting resources as necessary.  Why is this important?  It is important to assure public education in Springboro is supported and that it can achieve the highest grade possible.

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It’s Unanimous – School Board Adopts Children’s First Budget!

What is a child centric budget?  It’s a budget that provides all of the resources to educate children first, while investing in highly qualified staff at every level.  At every level, our administration and teachers strive for the highest standards of achievement and professionalism.  That is why a Children’s First Budget makes sense. 

It makes sense for teachers because we invest in the tools and equipment necessary to help them do what they do best – teach.  It makes sense for the taxpayer, because it allows a board of education to manage it’s taxpayer provided resources just like every person does in their homes.  But most of all, it makes sense for our students because it prioritizes what they most need, by targeting resources as necessary.  Why is this important?  It is important to assure public education in Springboro is supported and that it can achieve the highest grade possible.

Children First Triangle - Service mark copy

This triangle reflects the Children First Budget process which provides resources at every level.   At it’s foundation are this districts highly qualified teachers – they teach our children every day.  Moving up a level is where our operations, administration, drivers, custodial and other support services are funded.  And finally, we know our community will NOT accept a curriculum that meets state minimums.  This board is investing more in extras – curriculum, programs, training, and technology than ever in the history of public education in Springboro.  This allocates resources so that we teach your children in the broadest most advanced environment, while remaining fiscally responsible.  Why, because we have great parents (and taxpayers) in Springboro and we know you DEMAND IT!

Below, is the recommendation report presented to the Springboro Community City School Board of Education.  This recommendation report requested board approval of the May 2013 5-year forecast and it’s critical assumptions.  For the record, the board unanimously adopted the 5-year forecast and assumptions which was reviewed by the Committee and prepared by the Mrs. Tracy Jarvis, Springboro Treasurer.   The report reads as follows:

Budget & Finance Committee May 2013 5-year Forecast Recommendation & Comments
David Petroni, Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.  Forecast and assumptions prepared by Tracy Jarvis, Springboro Community City School Treasurer
May 23, 2013

By unanimous vote, the Board of Education established and authorized the Budget and Finance Committee to review all matters of forecasting and finance.  A 5-year forecast and set of assumptions are required to be updated twice a year per the Ohio Department of Education.  It is within this authority and process that district finances are evaluated and vetted.  In Springboro, the May forecast is used by the administration and board as the next fiscal year’s operating budget, which begins July 1, 2013.  This committee of the board only makes recommendations.  The recommendations are then presented to the full board for their deliberation and approval.

Tonight, the committee is pleased to present a budget and 5-year forecast that offers respect to the taxpayer and employee, is transparent to everyone, and is, at its core, child centric.  This forecast is investing at unprecedented levels in curriculum and tools for educators, while remaining fiscally responsible.  The forecast also recognizes the uncertainty about ongoing negotiations with the Ohio Education Association, potential revenue increases provided in the Governors new budget, and the risks associated with asking the community to support a levy.  Changes to any of these three areas can impact the projected fund balance in either negative or positive ways.

With those aforementioned caveats in mind, this forecast and its accompanying assumptions establish policies of the board that in recent history have not been accomplished without attempting to raise taxes. Like in both forecasts adopted in 2012, this budget does not need new taxes.

The goals and investments of the budget are targeted & measured, and timed to fit within available resources.  This fiscal management philosophy is to assure everyone in Springboro clearly understands that the district is diligently working to live within the currently approved tax revenues.

Naturally, every school district in Ohio, claims that children are their first priority.  Today in Springboro, we not only claim it, we own the naming rights!  The adoption of this forecast is the evidence that public education is fully supported in Springboro by this Board of Education.  The proof is in the fact that we are investing heavily in our infrastructure, both physical and technical, in our curriculum, and the safety of our children and staff, while recognizing employee concerns that will remain open until completion of negotiations.

Since instituting child centric investment policies last year, the results are remarkably visible.  Putting our children’s education first is good policy, it is good for public education, it is good for professional educators, it is good for our students for it WILL continue to help attract the best and the brightest teachers.  As outlined and conditioned in the assumptions, this district has never been on firmer financial ground.

There are a few noteworthy changes since our October 2012 forecast in board policy, revenues, and expenditures as follows:
1.  The Rocky Express Revenue collected will increase $2.4 million thru 2017.  This is not a tax increase on our community, it is an intangible tax on the public utility.
2.  Like in 2010/ 2011, the board again offered an early retirement incentive plan for all employees which is projected to reduce expenses by $1.266 million in salary and benefits. 34 employees took this early retirement incentive, which will pay them each up to $40,000 over a fixed term.
3.  The board approved Mr. Petrey’s plan to start preschool next school year that will increase Personal Services (Salaries) and benefits and reduce Purchased services (previous preschool contract).  The plan projects to capture a slight expense reduction thru 2017.   There may be additional money for preschool and gifted services in the Governors budget.  Since the State budget process will not be completed until June 30, nothing has been projected.
4.  Mr. Petrey presented an efficiency plan to the board that is projected to be net – neutral in cost.  This plan re-allocates resources based on student achievement data.  The administration demonstrated to the board it is possible to manage existing resources by shifting them to address defined gaps.  This is projected to be at no additional cost while improving the quality public education and the high standards expected of Springboro Schools.
5.  The combining of our elementary school buildings this year accounts for an approximate $150,000 in savings thru 2017.  Due to the efficiencies of operating Dennis and Five Points as one separate but unified building, it allowed the administration to balance class sizes and maintain current staffing levels for the next school year.
6.  To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in Springboro’s history, a comprehensive capital improvement plan identified $5.8 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance.  Based on projected tax revenue last year, this plan was recommended to only be funded at approximately 50%.  This year, based on updated revenue projections, the committee is adopting the administration’s recommendation to increase this spending by approximately $1.3 million to a total cost of $3.7 which will be spread throughout this forecast.  The residual balance of $2.1 million has been identified as an unmet need and shall remain a goal of the district if we are to adequately maintain our facilities.  Immediate and full funding of this plan would reduce the projected fund balance (Line 12.010)
7.  Project 21, the district technology investment plan, is a $1.3 million initiative and a model for others to follow.  The technology plan created by our tech department outlines a long-term investment program that provides tools for our teachers and creates a 21st century learning environment for our children in every classroom.  This plan purchases over 1,100 computers, and assures every building in our district has wifi capability to support the expansion of the bring your own technology (BYOT) program.  The investment is also designed to meet the on line testing required by the State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.
8.  Over $2 million will be invested in a transportation plan to assure our parents their children will be safe traveling to and from our schools and while in our care traveling to extra curricular events throughout the year.  The plan proposes to replace 21 buses thru 2017.  11 buses were purchased today through the utilization of tax exempt bonds, which also allowed Moody’s to re-evaluate our bond ratings.  Moody’s findings are included at the end of the assumptions in total.
9.  In August of 2010, that board authorized investing $2.470 million in new textbooks and new textbook adoptions.  To date $600,000 has been spent.  The forecast includes the remaining $1.8 million.  An additional $600,000 has been identified as an unmet need based on the curriculum department’s recommendation.
10.  There have been reports out of Columbus stating Springboro may receive 6%, or approximately $1.8 million more in foundation money under the budget bill.  Until the budget process concludes, no increase in revenue has been projected.  Counting your chickens before the eggs hatch is never sound thinking.

Let me pause here for just a moment to celebrate all of this success.

It would be an understatement to say that these are exciting times for our children, teachers, and our entire community.

Fiscally speaking, the district budget has been built to meet the needs of our students, supporting our teachers, while showing deference and respect to the taxpayers who have continued their support of public education in Springboro.  How we treat our children today will determine how our district is treated by this community.

Open items that require more diligence, discussion, and study are pay to participate, our relationship with all our support organizations that surround extra curricular programs, student enrollment trends, housing growth trends, employee contract negotiations, and specific plan development for several noted unmet needs.

The unmet needs list if fully funded would reduce our current projected surplus fund balance.  These are wants that are not currently prioritized into the annual spending plan until such time revenue projections support the additional investments because quite frankly, rational and responsible choices must be made in determining the allocation of scarce resources.  We are not the federal government, who can print money whenever the need arises, we are constrained by the revenue the taxpayers of the school district provide us.

A critical component of this forecast is the inclusion of $9.2 million from the expiration of an emergency levy established 5 years ago. Since May of 2012, the revenue from this levy has been included in the assumptions and fund balance.  We pray the taxpayers accept our recommendation and the research performed that went into its making.

Based on this forecast and specifics defined by each assumption, the committee is recommending placing a levy on the November 2013 ballot with the  amount not to exceed the $9.2 million the district will lose when the previous emergency levy expires.

The first deadline for making the November ballot is August 2, 2013.  It is our hope that the caveats and uncertainties in our budget forecast will be clarified by that time.

In summary, the budget presented reflects an increase in our district fund balance from $5.8 million to $7.2.  I wish to thank the administration and all of our staff for their hard work and accomplishments of the past year.

The $7.2 million net fund balance, includes the passage of the $9.2 million levy and excludes the $1 mm board emergency reserve (forecast line 12.010).  Based on advise from our legal counsel, the assumptions around compensation and benefits remain consistent with no change to specific employee concerns until mutual agreement is reached through the negotiation process.   This process should be permitted to reach it terminus before any actions are taken.

This 5-year forecast has been developed in the sunshine in open meetings duly attended by the public; the budget expenditures have been aligned with our revenues; it is transparent to the EVERYONE, and it shows respect to the taxpayers of this district who have supported Springboro Schools for decades.

If the children are our community’s first priority, then the philosophy of Children First Budgeting makes sense.  It creates plans and prioritizes spending so that the things most important to education and student achievement are funded first.  It does not allow one budget item to absorb so much that other critical items are left wanting.

The one unifying principal we all profess is that ” it’s about the children”.  If that is indeed true, then let us set aside partisan difference, and rally for the education of our children, because the children must be our first priority!

In closing, it is the committee’s recommendation that the board accept the financial forecast and assumptions as presented for submission to the Ohio Department of Education.

Does the Ohio Education Association Care about Springboro?

On Wednesday, a spokesman from the Ohio Education Association (OEA) announced that the Springboro Teachers Union voted to give the authority to their 5-person executive committee to give 10 day notice of the Springboro Teachers Union intent to strike. Why is the OEA standing in the way of negotiations in Springboro? Visit http://www.springboro.org for current negotiation information, the fiscal impact of accepting the OEA contract, and more. Stay informed, at http://www.springboro.org.

Children First Budgeting Works!!

On May 23, 2013, the Board of Education Unanimously adopted the recommendations of the Budget & Finance Committee. A budget that invests in our children’s education. To the best of my knowledge, never in the history of Springboro Community City Schools has so much been done without the need to raise taxes.

I encourage you to pass this message along to all of your friends and family. Please share this blog site with everyone, no matter what side of an issue they stand. It is time to rally for our children of this school district, it is time to rally behind our graduates that leave our care on June 1, and it is time to rally behind all of the success this year, such as maintaining an Excellent with Distinction !!!! Much work has been done, and each time, our team achieve their mission – they deliver!

Here is the entire message presented to the Board and our entire community. Please ask the Springboro School Treasurer, Tracy Jarvis (tjarvis@springboro.org) for a copy of the 5-year forecast and assumptions and thank you for taking the time and consideration.

Budget & Finance Committee May 2013 5-year Forecast Recommendation & Comments

David Petroni, Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.

May 23, 2013

By unanimous vote, the Board of Education established and authorized the Budget and Finance Committee to review all matters of forecasting and finance. A 5-year forecast and set of assumptions are required to be updated twice a year per the Ohio Department of Education. It is within this authority and process that district finances are evaluated and vetted. In Springboro, the May forecast is used by the administration and board as the next fiscal year’s operating budget, which begins July 1, 2013. This committee of the board only makes recommendations. The recommendations are then presented to the full board for their deliberation and approval.

Tonight, the committee is pleased to present a budget and 5-year forecast that offers respect to the taxpayer and employee, is transparent to everyone, and is, at its core, child centric. This forecast is investing at unprecedented levels in curriculum and tools for educators, while remaining fiscally responsible. The forecast also recognizes the uncertainty about ongoing negotiations with the Ohio Education Association, potential revenue increases provided in the Governors new budget, and the risks associated with asking the community to support a levy. Changes to any of these three areas can impact the projected fund balance in either negative or positive ways.

With those aforementioned caveats in mind, this forecast and its accompanying assumptions establish policies of the board that in recent history have not been accomplished without attempting to raise taxes. Like in both forecasts adopted in 2012, this budget does not need new taxes.

The goals and investments of the budget are targeted & measured, and timed to fit within available resources. This fiscal management philosophy is to assure everyone in Springboro clearly understands that the district is diligently working to live within the currently approved tax revenues.

Naturally, every school district in Ohio claims that children are their first priority. Today in Springboro, we not only claim it, we own the naming rights! The adoption of this forecast is the evidence that public education is fully supported in Springboro by this Board of Education. The proof is in the fact that we are investing heavily in our infrastructure, both physical and technical, in our curriculum, and the safety of our children and staff, while recognizing employee concerns that will remain open until completion of negotiations.

Since instituting child centric investment policies last year, the results are remarkably visible. Putting our children’s education first is good policy, it is good for public education, it is good for professional educators, it is good for our students for it WILL continue to help attract the best and the brightest teachers. As outlined and conditioned in the assumptions, this district has never been on firmer financial ground.

There are a few noteworthy changes since our October 2012 forecast in board policy, revenues, and expenditures as follows:

1. The Rocky Express Revenue collected will increase $2.4 million thru 2017. This is not a tax increase on our community, it is an intangible tax on the public utility.

2. Like in 2010/ 2011, the board again offered an early retirement incentive plan for all employees which is projected to reduce expenses by $1.266 million in salary and benefits. 34 employees took this early retirement incentive, which will pay them each up to $40,000 over a fixed term.

3. The board approved Mr. Petrey’s plan to start preschool next school year that will increase Personal Services (Salaries) and benefits and reduce Purchased services (previous preschool contract). The plan projects to capture a slight expense reduction thru 2017. There may be additional money for preschool and gifted services in the Governors budget. Since the State budget process will not be completed until June 30, nothing has been projected.

4. Mr. Petrey presented an efficiency plan to the board that is projected to be net – neutral in cost. This plan re-allocates resources based on student achievement data. The administration demonstrated to the board it is possible to manage existing resources by shifting them to address defined gaps. This is projected to be at no additional cost while improving the quality public education and the high standards expected of Springboro Schools.

5. The combining of our elementary school buildings this year accounts for an approximate $150,000 in savings thru 2017. Due to the efficiencies of operating Dennis and Five Points as one separate but unified building, it allowed the administration to balance class sizes and maintain current staffing levels for the next school year.

6. To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in Springboro’s history, a comprehensive capital improvement plan identified $5.8 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance. This plan is recommended to be funded at approximately 50%. Based on projected tax revenue last year, This year, based on updated revenue projections, the committee is adopting the administration’s recommendation to increase this spending by approximately $1.3 million to a total cost of $3.7 which will be spread throughout this forecast. The residual balance of $2.1 million has been identified as an unmet need and shall remain a goal of the district if we are to adequately maintain our facilities. Immediate and full funding of this plan would reduce the projected fund balance (Line 12.010)

7. Project 21, the district technology investment plan, is a $1.3 million initiative and a model for others to follow. The technology plan created by our tech department outlines a long-term investment program that provides tools for our teachers and creates a 21st century learning environment for our children in every classroom. This plan purchases over 1,100 computers, and assures every building in our district has Wi-Fi capability to support the expansion of bring your own technology (BYOT) program. The investment is also designed to meet the on line testing required by the State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.

8. Over $2 million will be invested in a transportation plan to assure our parents their children will be safe traveling to and from our schools and while in our care traveling to extra curricular events throughout the year. The plan proposes to replace 21 buses thru 2017. 11 buses were purchased today through the utilization of tax-exempt bonds, which also allowed Moody’s to re-evaluate our bond ratings. Moody’s findings are included at the end of the assumptions in total.

9. In August of 2010, that board authorized investing $2.470 million in new textbooks and new textbook adoptions. To date $600,000 has been spent. The forecast includes the remaining $1.8 million. An additional $600,000 has been identified as an unmet need based on the curriculum department’s recommendation.

10. There have been reports out of Columbus stating Springboro may receive 6%, or approximately $1.8 million more in foundation money under the budget bill. Until the budget process concludes, no increase in revenue has been projected. Counting your chickens before the eggs hatch is never sound thinking.

Let me pause here for just a moment to celebrate all of this success.

It would be an understatement to say that these are exciting times for our children, teachers, and our entire community.

Fiscally speaking, the district budget has been built to meet the needs of our students, supporting our teachers, while showing deference and respect to the taxpayers who have continued their support of public education in Springboro. How we treat our children today will determine how this community treats our district.

Open items that require more diligence, discussion, and study are pay to participate, our relationship with all our support organizations that surround extra curricular programs, student enrollment trends, housing growth trends, employee contract negotiations, and specific plan development for several noted unmet needs.

The unmet needs list if fully funded would reduce our current projected surplus fund balance. These are wants that are not currently prioritized into the annual spending plan until such time revenue projections support the additional investments because quite frankly, rational and responsible choices must be made in determining the allocation of scarce resources. We are not the federal government, who can print money whenever the need arise, we are constrained by the revenue the taxpayers of the school district provide us.

A critical component of this forecast is the inclusion of $9.2 million from the expiration of an emergency levy established 5 years ago. Since May of 2012, the revenue from this levy has been included in the assumptions and fund balance. We pray the taxpayers accept our recommendation and the research performed that went into its making.

Based on this forecast and specifics defined by each assumption, the committee is recommending placing a levy on the November 2013 ballot with the amount not to exceed the $9.2 million the district will lose when the previous emergency levy expires.

The first deadline for making the November ballot is August 2, 2013. It is our hope that the caveats and uncertainties in our budget forecast will be clarified by that time.

In summary, the budget presented reflects an increase in our district fund balance from $5.8 million to $7.2. I wish to thank the administration and all of our staff for their hard work and accomplishments of the past year.

The $7.2 million net fund balance includes the passage of the $9.2 million levy and excludes the $1 mm board emergency reserve (forecast line 12.010). Based on advise from our legal counsel, the assumptions around compensation and benefits remain consistent with no change to specific employee concerns until mutual agreement is reached through the negotiation process. This process should be permitted to reach it terminus before any actions are taken.

This 5-year forecast has been developed in the sunshine in open meetings duly attended by the public; the budget expenditures have been aligned with our revenues; it is transparent to the EVERYONE, and it shows respect to the taxpayers of this district who have supported Springboro Schools for decades.

If the children are our community’s first priority, then the philosophy of Children First Budgeting makes sense. It creates plans and prioritizes spending so that the things most important to education and student achievement are funded first. It does not allow one budget item to absorb so much that other critical items are left wanting.

The one unifying principal we all profess is that ” it’s about the children”. If that is indeed true, then let us set aside partisan difference, and rally for the education of our children, because the children must be our first priority!

In closing, it is the committee’s recommendation that the board accept the financial forecast and assumptions as presented for submission to the Ohio Department of Education.

Vote May 7, 2013!

Public education began with the first school in 1635 in the Massachusetts Colony. The Boston Latin School was founded and continues today as the first and oldest existing school.  After the Revolutionary War, it was recognized that an educated citizenry was vital to the health and success of our young nation.  This idea continued to develop alongside the growth of our nation. By 1870, there was a focus and emphasis on education.  The movement to have all states offer free public elementary school had begun as a result. Literacy rates in the United States were high.

Thirty years later, at the dawn of the 20th century, the purpose of public education became clear.  Educators realized post secondary school were needed. The premise was that an educated electorate could build more educated citizens, develop skills needed to increase prosperity in the United States, and improve both critical and logical thinking skills.  Today, these same qualities exist as the foundational tenants behind public education.

In 1917, the National Education Association (NEA)reorganized. Their competition is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  According to Wikipedia, both organizations’ goals are to “better mobilize and represent teachers and educational staff”. Wikipedia also states “the NEA saw itself as an upper-middle class professional organization, while the AFT identified itself with the working class and the union movement”and is located more in larger cities. In Ohio, there is another teacher labor organization, called the Ohio Education Association (OEA). According to the OEA web page (About OEA – History), “The Ohio Education Association has a long and proud history of advocating for children in public education”, founded in Summit County in December of 1847.

Our nation and state economy have yet to fully recover from this recent recession. Through these challenged times, we all have been forced to make tougher choices than we would have preferred. Some were humbling to many.  People experienced a loss of homes, savings, and a degree of security. Maybe you went on unemployment for the first time in your entire life and struggled more than you had in the past to put food on the table for your family. Your retirement benefits dwindled; you may be re-employed at a lower pay scale; or you had to take a pay cut, just to survive.

Our school district is not immune to these same uncertainties.  An uncertain economic future impacts not only individual households, but also those entities which are dependent on the financial support from those same households. At the April 25, 2013 Board of Education meeting, the board discussed that over $233,000, yes, over $233,000 in school fees are uncollected – delinquent. School fees are extra charges to parents for consumable goods used in educating their children. Obviously even our community has not recovered and things must be tight for our families in Springboro.

As our year progresses, as citizens, you will have at least 3 opportunities to exercise your electoral rights. May 7 is around the corner.  Regardless of which way you vote on May 7, it is your duty to perform due diligence upon the issues, evaluate the arguments, then vote based upon rational reflection.

Please share this message with your friends and family, encourage them to take a few minutes, learn about the issues on the May 7 ballot and vote.  Isn’t that one of the main purposes of public education?  Not to mention one of the freedoms we have by living in the United States of America.