In the direction of truth

It’s October, which is an absolutely beautiful time of year. Of course there are cooler nights, falling leaves and temperate days.

And for those of us who enjoy politics and government, it is the only time of year when our communities engage in truly open debate. For those of us who like to discuss the issues, this is our time. Because it’s not just a few of us wrestling with a budget or debating the day’s headlines. Our entire community becomes engaged.

The signs are showing up on busy intersections and along well-traveled routes. Our neighbors are talking a bit more about politics—it’s less taboo than at any other time of year.

But there’s a strange thing that also happens in October. As there is more communication on the election—there seems to be less information. There are more words, but they seem to say less. As we get closer and closer to November, there is less time to check the facts. There is much being said about Springboro Schools, but how much of it is true?

Here is the truth.

  • We have achieved a balanced, children-first budget

  • We have lowered fees

  • We have implemented efficiency plans that direct savings back into our schools

  • We have hired additional teachers and aides

  • We have opened the preschool / early learning center

  • We have expanded high school A/P courses

  • We are promoting dual credit and PSEO to allows student to gain full college credits in high school

  • We have a coordinated technology plan with wireless access for every building, new laptops to every teacher and more than 1,100 new computers throughout the district.

  • We are exploring the data to understand the “proficient” standard and to set a higher bar for achievement.

These facts are indisputable. Still, we may see the truth differently.  In math, we have proofs. In science, we have theories to test. But in our schools, we see the truth as it affects our kids in the classroom, our teachers and staff whom we hired, our traditions, and our personal expectations. It is personal.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the prisoners can only see shadows. It is the only reality they know. It is theirs. It is known, comfortable, understandable and real. But when the shadows are revealed and the prisoners are asked to embrace a new reality of the light that casts the shadows, they resist it. Their truth was in the shadows that they had known for so long. This is like our definition of “proficient.” We thought proficient was good, until we learned what the raw scores are.

When someone asks you to look at things in a new way—to entertain the idea that the truth is not what you thought it was—it is normal to fight it. That is why this board made transparency and debate a cornerstone of all we do.

While the Board of Education has made missteps in the past year and a half, we made them in a transparent fashion.  This transparency allowed the community to round out our actions to reflect their wishes and desires. When we work together and talk to each other about the issues, better solutions are developed.

So, here in the month of October, let’s keep the discussion going. Let’s talk about the record. Let’s talk about the standards. Let’s talk about the facts. Let’s move together in the direction of truth. The truth is not in the online video from Olentangy United. The truth is not in rumors. The truth is not in the shadows of the past.

The truth is that we are using data to improve upon what is already a strong school district. If we only look at the shadows on the wall, we limit our own perspective, and we also limit the possibilities for Springboro students.

 

Welcome Back to School!

Educate Springboro celebrates the first day of school and wishes students and families, teachers and staff a successful year ahead!

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
 –Chinese Proverb

This is the time of year when families and communities reflect on the treasure in our schools. It is not in the bricks and mortar. It is in the people. The treasure is in the promise of our children learning and carrying those lessons with them as they grow.

While the kids focus on mastering that new locker combination and where their friends are located, parents are more focused on checking off the back-to-school supply list.  Those without children in school merely note their commute got longer because the buses are back.

Educate Springboro is focused on assuring the necessities are provided for learning and teaching.

Careful budgeting, data-driven decision making, and efficiency plans from our central office staff have made it possible for Springboro to afford its back-to-school list. We have found ways to afford the necessities required and give money back the taxpayer has more money is left in their wallet at the end of the day.

Springboro’s 2013 back-to-school list includes long overdue capital improvements to building interiors, roofs and parking lots; more resources for reading and gifted education in the elementary grades; new curriculum to align with state standards; and more than a $1.1 million upgrade to technology in each and every building.

In fact, the following needs are ACCOUNTED FOR in the current budget through the 2017 budget:

  • over $2 million in text books and new adoptions
  • over $2.1 million for new buses
  • over $3.7 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance
  • over $1.5 million in technology
  • over $7.5 million increase for our staff in raises.

Our community’s school supply list is significant. We have found that it is affordable when we put children first. Just as Springboro’s families have to find ways to finance the back-to-school list within their budgets, our district must do the same thing to accomplish our goals within a balanced budget.

Many new faces will appear at the door and in the classroom to welcome our children back this year.  But not to worry, over 80% of our school staff is returning to start another year.  While this is slightly lower than our normal 87%, the reasons are quite understandable.

As changes in the state retirement pension program became evident, it behooved some of our employees to take advantage of the current, more generous provisions available now.  The result for our employees would be thousands of dollars less in lifetime retirement pay if they were to delay their retirement until next year or the year after.

Secondly, our district offered not one, but two early retirement buy-out plans to assist our senior teachers and staff who were close to requirements, but needed a little assistance on our part to make it work out.  While this did aid many teachers and staff in realizing their dreams and aspirations, it also freed up precious salary money to redistribute throughout the district to other employees.

Thirdly, uncertainty on contract negotiations played a role. Although our Board of Education invited the unions to open negotiations In January, but that open invitation was declined by the unions. This pushed negotiations, and the associated uncertainty of what the future held financially for our teachers and staff, well into the summer.  As a result, we lost more teachers than we normally would have as some sought a financial stability in their income flow that was not threatened by union activity that they had little to no control over.

We welcome our new principals, teachers, staff, students and families as they join our school community. This is a new year—one full of new opportunities.  It remains our fervent desire to see that each child in our system excels past the point of state minimum requirements and receives a real education filled with knowledge and well earned achievement. 

Welcome back to school!

Thank you for your support of this blog and Educate Springboro. The blog’s readership and distribution have grown significantly in recent weeks. Please keep it growing!  Share this with your contact list. And, if you can, please click on the right to donate to our group. Your donation helps to share information on public education, budgeting, policy, taxation and more matters that impact our entire community.

Educate Springboro is an organization created to research and share information on issues that impact our community.  This message paid for by Educate Springboro, 8786 Wildwood Pl., Springboro, OH 40566.      

 

In the direction of opportunity

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
–Winston Churchill

When we combine common sense spending with the strong performance of our schools, we can offer opportunities for everyone–our students, teachers, families and our community.

The 2013 campaign for school board has begun, and some candidates are calling for a nostalgic turn back to “the way it was.” The status quo says they want to go in a different direction.  Here is a reminder of our past:

• Instead of facing our challenges, they seemingly would retreat back in time.
• Instead of looking for opportunities to improve and innovate, they chose the way they always operated – raise fees, cut busing, reduce support staff, and increase class size to leverage parents.
• Instead of reallocating resources in response to a changing financial environment, they chose not to buy books, technology, buses, or to make needed capital improvements.

This summer a worker fell 20 feet (blessedly survived with only a broken elbow) while fixing the Clearcreek Elementary roof because the roof decking had been neglected for so long. If regular maintenance is performed, how much less might this repair have cost?

We see the status quo woefully ill equipped to meet the challenges that our school district faces.

Opportunity reaches past the status quo. Jim Rigano and I have brought a realistic perspective to our schools. As we look at district operations and use student achievement data, we are creating opportunity and directing more resources to where students need them most. We are funneling more tools to teachers and administrators that can be deployed at the point of attack on the issues facing our children.

Opportunity to redefine excellence
Those who promote the status quo placed great emphasis on many awards on the school walls. As a result many assumed that all was well inside those walls. But the awards only measure the past, and the standards are changing. Our schools have indeed scored well by state standards, but the term “PROFICIENT” is misleading. For example, a student taking the Ohio Achievement Assessment test in math in the spring of 2013 only needs a raw score between 35% – 59% to be deemed “PROFICIENT” in eighth grade math.  Then, if enough students score over 35%, a school is deemed by the state to be “excellent.”

Proficient is not enough. The time is now to bring forward new ways of evaluating our children that no longer grade on a curve to get the desired results. Our goal should be that every Springboro student score 75% or better on these tests.  Tougher, realistic standards upset the status quo, but deflated standards masked by positive sounding words rob our children of true achievement, potential, and a future.

We see the opportunity to set the bar higher and deliver a more honest standard for our schools.

Opportunities for success after high school
Our goal is to send Springboro High School graduates off to college and career better equipped for success. The district has purchased an audit of our high school, and the High School That Works Program conducted repeated biannual audits. For years the status quo ignored the High School that Works audit findings. We are supporting and encouraging our administrators to use these facts to improve.

The Springboro High School (SHS) program audit from Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) asserts the high school needs to “increase rigor, cut general education classes, and increase college preparatory courses, including Advanced Placement (AP)”.

The ESC audit and a report from the High Schools That Work program show that Springboro’s program of studies was neglected for years by the status quo. As new leadership is committed to rewrite the curriculum to offer a more rigorous, relevant course of study, we are encouraging our administration to improve college credit options to give greater opportunities for all students’ college and career plans by:

• Enhancing the ACT Preparation Class at SHS brought forth last year.
• Incentivizing college credit (while in high school) with more guidance towards Advanced Placement (AP), the Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO), and dual credit. These options could accelerate students’ college study while simultaneously reducing the significant college cost for families.
• Exploring STEM initiatives and hands-on learning in cooperation with local businesses will be key for our college-bound students as well as for those who are focused on their career after high school.

We see these as opportunities to accelerate student achievement, reduce student’s college debt, help parents spend less on college, and turn Springboro towards a 21st century learning environment.

Opportunities for students
The Children First budgeting approach and the Springboro central office team’s efficiency plans are already yielding significant savings in the first year. These freed up dollars are being reinvested in our students and their day-to-day learning through:

• Purchasing new curriculum and new textbooks where needed;
• Increased reading intervention support;
• Increased gifted services;
• Increased technology – 100% Wi-Fi across all buildings and computer equipment upgrades;
• Creating early learning opportunities for children;
• Using facts to track student achievement to allow our teachers and parents to track learning three times a year to better refine our teaching efforts and focus on the child’s needs.
• Reduced pay-to-play fees in a time when many of those districts around us are raising theirs. The result of this reduction has been a 12% increase in participation in our sports and band programs.

Opportunities for teachers
Jim Rigano and I encouraged more professional development. We did not cut it. When the levies failed, the status quo cut professional development, staff, technology, busing, and curriculum. Critics assert that the Children First budget ignores teachers. This is simply FALSE. This budget approach is providing every teacher with a raise, a new laptop while also installing more than 1000 new computers in our schools for children.

Taking a Children’s First approach evaluates and reallocates resources in other areas, making investment plans, and transparent budgeting also allows support for our curriculum team. The teachers’ professional development is a vital part of the implementation plan of the new curriculum and is critical to the success of our efforts as we strive to meet new standards this year.

Opportunity to rebuild trust in our community
The community’s call for more responsible spending echoes in our actions. We’ve built a realistic financial foundation. We asked for honest input from teachers, administrators, and support staff regarding spending and investment plans. We budget every item with a purpose to enhance our children’s educational prospects and explain it in public as well as in our financial forecasts.

Our budgeting is deliberate and thoughtful. With each dollar saved, we cheered—knowing we could now reinvest it in other opportunities within our Springboro schools. We are not spending less when it comes to your children’s education; we are spending more on our core mission with a focused approach that centers on advancing our children’s education.

But it cannot be all about money.  It should always be about ways to create more opportunity.  Opportunity for our new pre-school, for our elementary schools, for SI, for our junior high, for our high school, for our graduates, for our students – from struggling to average to gifted, for our teachers, and even for our standard of excellence.

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.

 

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.

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.

Why consider a conversion school?

Why Consider A Conversion School?

The Springboro School Board is examining the opportunity of re-opening the Jonathan Wright building as a Conversion SchoolA Conversion School is Ohio’s term for a charter school sponsored by a public school. The Springboro School board and the Warren County Educational Service Center are the only entities that can sponsor a Conversion School in the Springboro School District.  A Conversion School is not a private school. Its existence and funding comes from the public school system.

So why do it? We have an excellent school system already.

Let’s answer that with some questions. Why do we allow Springboro HS students to attend the Warren County Career Center? Why do we suggest some kids attend the Warren County Alternative school? Why do Miamisburg and West Carrollton School Districts sponsor conversion schools?

The answer in each case is those schools offer either a different curriculum or a different environment than the traditional public school, and the parents believe the alternative is better for their child. So even in an excellent school district like Springboro, some students and parents are looking for alternatives. One size doesn’t fit all.

What might this school offer?  That’s a matter for an extended discussion with the community.  One possibility that intrigues me is to create a classical education program as some private schools offer.  Another idea might be to move away from traditional grade levels and promote children to the next level once they have mastered the skill or subject.  After all, kids don’t all learn and develop at the same pace. There are many other possibilities and considerations.

Would a Springboro conversion school drain resources and put our excellent system at risk? We simply can’t allow that to happen. The conversion school concept only works if 1) it is cost neutral, 2) it meets a need that can’t be better addressed by a change in the traditional school, and 3) it does no harm to our already outstanding schools.

Can it be done? At this point we don’t know. Initial indications are that it may be financially feasible, but many questions remain. Perhaps Springboro Schools will be able to offer another alternative for students and parents without increasing taxes. We need a thorough evaluation and that would be the purpose for establishing a committee and hiring a consultant if the board is inclined to do that. We won’t know until somebody looks at it, and I believe it is worth a look!

I’ve heard the rumors about shutting down half of the high school curriculum to fund the conversion school and allegations that a board member might financially benefit from a conversion school. These are nonsense. There is a big state and national debate around charter schools and school choice. However, the decision about this school is a local one and our focus needs to be on our schools, community, and our kids.  We can’t be afraid to investigate a change that could potentially benefit many students and parents.

Jim Rigano
Board of Education Member
Springboro Community City Schools