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Board Finalizes Budget Reductions, Approves Restoration Priorities Pending New Resources
Magnet Program “Bridge” Plan Proposed; Five-year Forecast Paints Financial Picture With, Without Emergency Levy Funds
(January 24, 2012) Following weeks of public discussion and input, the Westerville City School District Board of Education last night approved a list of $16.7 million in budget reductions that will be made prior to next school year in order to balance a $23 million deficit in Fiscal Year 2013.
Immediately following the approval of these reductions, Board members passed a resolution identifying prioritized academic programs and services that would be restored if new money becomes available to the district. These additional resources could be from approval of the March emergency operating levy, alternative funding sources or other expenditure reductions.
Budget reductions approved by the Board last night are in addition to the approximate $1.8 million in Fiscal Year 2012 budget reductions that the Board approved on November 28, 2011. Cumulatively, the reductions to positions, programs and services total $18.5 million. District officials said the budget reduction figures are conservative and expect actual savings to be higher.
The approved reductions consist of, among other things, the elimination of all extracurricular and co-curricular activities, including athletics; the reduction of related arts programming, such as music and art specialists; and reducing the number of elective courses that high school students can schedule. The list of approved reductions and supporting documentation is available on the district web site at www.wcsoh.org.
Cuts to programs and services result in the elimination of 221 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions across the district, including 112.95 FTE teaching positions, 99.5 FTE classified support staff positions, and 8.56 FTE administrative positions. The district employs 1,001.35 FTE Teachers, 739 FTE classified support staff and 74 FTE administrators. On a percentage basis, the reductions reflect an 11.3 percent reduction to teaching staff, a 13.5 percent reduction to classified support staff, and an 11.6 percent reduction to administrative staff.
Additional savings were realized last month when the district’s administrative staff volunteered to phase in payments for board-funded health insurance premiums. Payments will be equal to the amount specified in the Westerville Education Association contract, which currently is 20 percent for family plan premiums and 5 percent for single coverage premiums. Full-time, non-union classified staff working under the district’s Administrative Approved Staff guidelines also will make payments for their insurance premiums. Concessions from administrators and administrative-approved staff are expected to save approximately $50,000 for the remainder of FY12 and $300,000 in FY13.
Administrative salaries have been frozen two of the last three years as a means to help address the district’s budget shortfalls. Administrators do not belong to a bargaining group so they neither have a salary schedule, nor do they receive annual step increases or cost of living adjustments to their base salary like other employee groups. Additional streamlining initiatives have reduced the district’s administrative salary cost by $276,000 since the 2009-10 school year.
In July, the Westerville Education Association voted to voluntarily give back $1.4 million in contractual compensation that otherwise would have been paid to teachers and other licensed staff under the current negotiated agreement. Members of the Westerville Educational Support Staff Association voluntarily donated back to the Board $175 each that they were to receive as a one-time, lump-sum payment in January 2012. The give-back will result in a $25,000 savings to the general fund.
The Board also has formally re-opened negotiations with the district’s four bargaining units regarding finances and potential concessions in an effort to keep jobs and retain programs and services for students.
Restoration of programs and services will occur only if new money becomes available to the district, though not all programs and services can be restored. That is because the March emergency levy request is at a reduced amount that would neither provide enough funding to restore everything that has been reduced, nor would it permit all programs and services to be restored exactly as they have been provided in the past.
Members of the district’s Executive Team used a decision-making framework to prioritize the academic programs and services to be restored. The matrix took into account the breadth of the impact that the restoration would provide, how its outcomes would positively affect performance on the local report card, and how it would contribute to students’ acquisition of 21st century skills. Executive team members used a “low, moderate and high” scale to rate each item.
Ratings from the decision-making matrix were converted into point values that were then tabulated to develop the ranked grouping of items to be restored:
Programs and services receiving a score of six include non-Title reading intervention services and gifted intervention services.
Programs and services receiving a score of five include non-Title instructional coaches, related arts instruction (including orchestra), high school electives, International Baccalaureate Program, extra- and co-curricular activities (including athletics), and middle school guidance services.
Programs and services receiving a score of four include world languages and media specialists.
Programs and services receiving a score of three include magnet schools, middle school technology courses and duty monitors.
Programs and services receiving a score of two include high school deans, media clerks, cafeteria-recess aides, department facilitators, Extended Time (30% reduction), and the community relations director position.
“Based upon what we know now, I believe we will be able to restore items down to the third tier of reductions, which are those items receiving a score of four or more,” Good said. “However, we must continue to be conservative in our restoration plans because we don’t know what unfunded mandates are going to come out of this General Assembly or the next. I also want to be perfectly clear that this does not mean things would come back exactly as they’ve been provided in the past.”
Good noted that while the International Baccalaureate remains on the restoration list, a community committee secured alternative funding to pay for two years of program costs and also developed a sustainability plan that will not require additional general fund dollars.
“The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program will continue, but it will be structured differently,” Good explained. “There is General Fund allocation budgeted to fulfill our commitment to this year's junior class through their senior year, and the costs associated with the IB Diploma Program that are in excess what the General Fund would already have incurred to educate the participants in a non-IB environment, are being satisfied via fund-raising.”
The Board on December 19, 2011, approved changes to the transportation policy that extend non-transport boundaries up to two miles and extend maximum walking distances to bus stops from ¼ mile to ½ mile. Though the implementation of reductions to transportation service levels was delayed until next school year, returning to prior service levels does not appear among the prioritized list of restorations because transportation remains a top priority that will be given a more unique analysis.
“Transportation is the highest priority to be restored as additional general fund resources become available, but the safety of students also must be considered in any discussions about future service levels,” Good said. “We’ll continue our efforts to achieve greater transportation efficiency as planned, and we’ll also recommend modifications to the plan in order to ensure the safety of our students to and from school.”
A committee of Magnet Program parents and staff members has been meeting to seek alternative options that would effectively meet the magnet program objectives and reduce General Fund expenditures beyond what the fund would endure had the Magnet Program not existed at all.
Based upon the work of the committee and input from others who wish to see the Magnet Program continue, Good recommended the following course of action to the Board:
Identify “zones” of elementary schools, and within each zone provide at least one grade 1-5 strand for each area of focus (e.g., arts, math/science, world cultures, others).
The number of strands for each area of focus would be market driven. As a result, it would be available to any family that chooses to have their child enrolled in a particular strand. The lottery process would no longer be necessary and limited access to Magnet Programs would be eliminated.
Start times of the schools in each zone may be staggered for transportation savings.
“This proposal not only meets the committee’s charge, but it also meets Magnet Program objectives of developing and modeling best practices, providing a focused context for curricula delivery, and creating a choice for all families,” Good said. “However, there are many logistics associated with making such a transition, so it will be impossible to have this structure in place for the 2012-13 academic year.”
Good said that changes this significant must involve the engagement of district staff and other stakeholders to finalize the plan. Consideration must be given to the design, communication, implementation, evaluation, and revision of the Magnet Program, with a special focus on helping students transition back to their home schools or zones for the 2013-14 school year.
“The process will begin this spring and will continue through program implementation in the fall of 2013,” Good explained. “Another proposal from the community committee, which offers a possible ‘bridge’ to the new Magnet Program structure, will allow us to work through the details of our redesigned Magnet Program throughout the next school year and launch it for the 2013-14 school year.”
The following temporary measures will be in place for the Magnet Program during the 2012-13 academic year:
Current magnet students at Hanby Arts, Emerson World Languages and Cultures, and Robert Frost Math/Science schools who will be in grades 2-5 next year will remain at those schools, in those magnet programs, for a final year.
Longfellow and Central College Math/Science magnet students would be consolidated within other buildings, most likely Hanby, and would stay with their current cohorts and teachers. The Central College and Longfellow facilities would be available for other purposes.
The magnet program lottery would not be extended to any of next year's first-grade students. First graders would attend their home school unless they successfully open enroll to another site.
The current lottery process would be used to fill any second- through fifth-grade seats made available through attrition and to maximize enrollment. Those students will also transition out of those buildings and into magnet cluster/zone schools in 2013-14.
District officials will collaborate with the Magnet Program Community Committee on fund raising efforts to offset potential “shuttle” costs for students and entertain the committee's recommendation that an Elementary Academic Booster group be formed for the purpose of supporting instructional programming across the district.
“This proposal not only will achieve expenditure reductions, but it will satisfy a need to re-imagine how we develop and model best practices,” Good said. “Furthermore, we will be able to give every family the opportunity to be involved in these unique learning environments, all while honoring the need for a year of planning and transition for our current magnet school families.”
Board members reviewed the district’s updated five-year financial forecast that must be filed with the Ohio Department of Education by the end of January to avoid being placed in Fiscal Caution. In addition to reflecting the impact of approved budget reductions on the FY12 and FY13 budget, the forecast presents the impact of Issue 10 on the district’s bottom line should that five-year emergency levy be approved by voters on March 6, 2012.
Budget-balancing measures are projected to leave the district with a $5.57 million carryover at the end of FY12 and a $44,247 carryover for FY13. However, without the community’s approval of Issue 10 or additional reductions to planned expenditures, the district would face a $3 million deficit in FY14.
If approved, Issue 10 will raise $16.54 million annually and would expire at the end of the 2017 calendar year unless renewed by voters. The issue, which does not contain an income tax component, would cost property owners an additional $211 per year per $100,000 of home value.