Monday, April 14, 2008

News of the Cutbacks, Part II

At tonight's meeting of the School Board, Superintendent Dale McVey gave his macro level plan for implementing the $4 million in spending cuts required due to the failure of the levy. Because 88% of the spending for the school district is personnel related, most of the cuts will be achieved through jobs eliminated, said Mr. McVey. At the next Board Meeting on April 28, he will present the list of specific employees who will be laid off. This is the broad brush view:

Administration: 5 positions; cost reduction of $552,000
  • Coordinator of School/Community Relations

  • Director, Gifted Services

  • 2 Assistant 6th Grade Principals

Certified Employees: 38 positions; cost reduction of $2.48 million

  • 16 K-5 teachers (it was explained that K-3 class sizes would kept close to what they are currently, but 4-5 classes will likely grow to 30 kids)

  • 2 6th grade teachers

  • 3 middle school teachers

  • 6 high school teachers

  • 3 K-5 Guidance counselors

  • 2 K-5 unified arts teachers

  • 1 school psychologist

  • 2 adaptive physical education teachers

  • 3 gifted teachers

Classified employees: 50 positions, cost reduction of $484,000.

  • 47 K-6 Noon Aides (this is a two hour position that is mostly filled by bus drivers between their morning and afternoon trips)

  • 2 high school hall monitors

  • 1 district repair technician

Program cuts: cost reduction of $257,000

  • eliminate Camp Joy program for 6th graders

  • eliminate industrial arts program

  • eliminate the middle school foreign language survey course

Administrative: The specific cuts in this category will be announced at the next Board meeting.

  • All buildings and Central Office: 5% additional ($470,000)

  • Additional Central Office Cuts: 5% ($247,000)

The Board members had a chance to respond to Mr. McVey's presentation. The most extensive comments were from Doug Maggied. I agree with his observation (paraphrasing) that this cut means real people with their own families to provide for are going to lose jobs, and that the loss of each of these people will be felt personally by a set of kids and parents who have a relationship with the person.

Doug went on to blame the General Assembly for failing to cure the school funding problem in Ohio. While that may be true, the cure may be worse than the disease, at least for Hilliard. The dollars to fund our schools don't magically appear from a bottomless bank account. They come from taxes collected from us in one form or another. Doug's affinity for a new funding paradigm must come from one or both of these beliefs:

  • In a redistribution of current statewide tax revenues among school districts, Hilliard City Schools will get more than we do now.

    This is extremely unlikely. Our community is viewed as one of the more affluent ones in the state, as evidenced by the fact that the Governor, with the approval of the General Assembly, has frozen the dollar amount of funding that comes back to us from the State. The first place any incremental funding dollars will go is to the truly struggling areas of the state, and we are more apt to be the source of that new money, not a recipient.

    If the funding comes from new taxes, be they income, sales or something else, we'll pay a larger-than-average share of that too. Whatever new tax model is generated, the net flow will be away from Hilliard, not toward us.

  • The community cannot be trusted with making decisions about the financial support of our own schools, therefore those decisions must be turned over to the Governor and the General Assembly, who we can count on to make sure all our current programming is fully funded.

    There is indeed a trust problem, but it's not that the Board doesn't trust the community - it's the other way around. Our school leadership has very weak communications skills. The School Board does most of its work, in my opinion, in the secrecy of Executive Sessions rather than seeing the necessity of being more, not less communicative in times such as this. In the last community survey, only 15% of the respondents gave the school leadership an "A" in listening.

We can't dump this financial problem on someone else. We have allowed the problem to develop by ignoring, and therefore choosing to remain ignorant of the implications of thousands of new houses being built without commensurate commercial development, and we'll have to live with the consequences.

As Pogo said:

“We have met the enemy and he is us”


  1. 2 Assistant 6th Grade Principals

    That says it all doesn't it? Who knew we had one, let alone two, assistant 6th grade principals?! You can't make it up. Something tells me there's more fat where that came from that isn't being cut.

    this cut means real people with their own families to provide for are going to lose jobs

    They should've thought about that when they decided to build Bradley instead of adding on to the existing schools. At that point the die was cast - they made the decision to favor infrastructure over people.

    Unfortunately the levy probably failed in part due to people thinking "sheesh we just paid for this brand spanking new high school...what more do they want from us?"

    Had the district shown any sense of fiscal reality in Ohio these days they would've gone cheap on infrastructure in order to save jobs. (But then there's a reason education is referred to as an "ivory tower"; you tend to get insulated from the economic difficulties of those in the private sector.)

    “We have met the enemy and he is us”

    Perhaps, but what bothers me most about this is that it happened to so many other places before Hilliard (i.e. rapid development leading to large property tax increases). How could we get blindsided?

    It's disturbing that almost no one in our district or among the citizenry (I include myself) seemed to have learned from the example of other communities. Speaking personally, I greatly depend on the newspaper to inform me, and I don't know if I just missed the Dispatch or Northwest News articles on this (out of apathy) or whether they dropped the ball, but ultimately if the school district is terrible at communicating - as they obviously are - it's really up to the newspaper to help. And yet I've learned a lot more on this blog than in any newspaper on the subject.

  2. TS:

    Thanks for the comment.

    Like you, I for years depended on the newspapers for info about our schools. My motivation to dig deeper came from two things: a) I had the opportunity to participate in the rewrite of the Brown Township Comprehensive Plan; and, b) I live in an agricultural area in which most of the surrounding land is owned by homebuilders, and development frontier had finally reached us.

    It puts me in a unique position not quite shared by any of the current school leadership. Sure, Doug Maggied lives out here in Brown Twp, and he was also part of the Comprehensive Plan rewrite team, but Doug lives on the westernmost border of the district, right on the Darby Creek, where the chances of a housing development springing up is about zero. He's not staring out onto a couple hundred bare acres owned by Homewood Homes like I do.

    So I understand why, as citizens of the school district, the Board members wouldn't have taken the time - anymore than the rest of us - to 'connect the dots' between rapid residential growth and school funding problems.

    But I can't forgive them once elected as Board members for not making the effort to understand the basic economic processes at work, and then enlisting the people of the community in telling the city leaders that their actions are destroying our community.

    Mayor Schonhardt has caught a tremendous political break. The downturn of the housing marketing reduces the pressure he would have otherwise felt to take care of his developer friends, and therefore allows him to stay out of the line of fire relative to our school funding crises. It makes it easy for him to say 'hey, I've been bringing in more business than houses - it's not my fault!' But that would be ignoring what happened in the past decade during which he has served as Mayor and Council President - when those thousands of houses were built. This is when our economics got screwed up.

    We can't hold ourselves blameless. There's lots of smart people in Hilliard. We just didn't bother ourselves with the small town politics. Nor, as you say, did we realize that when other districts like Pickerington and Westerville were having funding problems, we were headed down the same road. 'Sucks to be them' we thought.

    We are now paying the price for that inattention.


  3. Well, looks like a start, and I agree there is more fat in the adminstrative area that should be cut permanently, whether and when a new levy passes. Eliminate high school assistant principles before regular elementary classroom teachers.

    As far as programs, if we can't afford Camp Joy, I don't think we can afford a 2-day out-of-town retreat by the board.

    The concept of Fund The Child is interesting. I am not really concerned about funding coming totally or exclusively from the state. There may be savings in administrative costs that would offset some of the money we might lose to poorer districts. Since I believe taxpayers owe the opportunity for a good basic education to every child in the state, I think we could benefit from some standardization and streamlining of curriculums statewide.

    I second the point that I have learned more about Hilliard schools funding from your blog than I have ever read in the local news or gotten from the districts glossy flyers. Keep up the good work Paul!

  4. There are 2 assistant 6th Grade Principals, because there are two 6th Grade Schools - Hilliard Tharp and Hilliard Station. Or weren't you aware of that?

    My guess is there was one assistant principal at each school and they are both being let go.

    Perhaps the folks who say 'see there is more fat where that came from' should further research the situation before immediately coming to that conclusion.

  5. I Just confirmed it on the schools' websites. Yes, there is currently 1 assistant principal at each school (Station / Tharp).

  6. I am sure we can go back and forth,
    two sixth grade principals, Camp Joy

    Camp Joy is a great experience for he kids, but NOT something that is a must have. I am of the belief that the schools have taken over way too much of the responsibility from the parents. Basic counseling,intervention is something that is valuable, but the parents in those cases should be
    held accountable,and if outside help is needed, then that should be conducted with some help of a school counselor, et al, with the financial and personal responsibility placed with the parents.

    Because of behavioral issues too much time is spent addressing non academic issues. The Ohio State Legislature along with the State Supreme court should be implementing laws and regulations\
    to further improve this situtation in the schools As with the funding issue, they have failed, and the problem is most voters have supported our current state rep and
    state senator who is now running for congress, and they are directly responsible. They have had the ability being the majority party to
    fix these issues.

    We will see more cuts, not necessarily a bad thing, but the fact is that after these cuts, it still only scratches the surface

    In the meantime, the district and
    teachers union continue to operate with a contract that continually drives up costs unnecessarily.
    7 to 8% raises, and medical coverage that is of a Mercedes

    Reduce the amount of the raises,
    not eliminate note, and get the medical in line.

    If we need to start with a whole new group, so be it, but while
    we hand out premium compensation
    in tough economic times which the
    HEA leadership continues to ignore
    things only get worse. The board
    needs to get with the program
    and the teachers need to get their
    HEA leaders to get a reality check before more of them have their positions eliminated. We cannot afford any longer 7 to 8% raises
    and the medical plan we offer.
    There are many other perks , time off etc, that will not be touched
    so there are many benefits still in place.

    Otherwise, the November and subsequent levies will fail, and
    to that the union leadership and the board have no one to blame but themselves.

  7. There are 2 assistant 6th Grade Principals

    My point was simply that its incredulous that we need any assistant 6th grade principals. It's almost funny that "principal" can be modified by "sixth grade" let alone "assistant". It reminds me of the old joke about title inflation, and how in the business world you might get the title "Assistant to the Assistant to the Junior Vice-President in Charge of Production".

    In the late '70s we had one principal for all grades up through 8th and managed to get educated.

  8. Anon at 3:50, agree with you whole-heartedly, the salaries, raises and benefits must be reined in. The Camp Joy comment was a criticism of the Board for making a cut that probably saves $30K when they will spend more than that on their retreat. Camp Joy sounds like the kind of activity the kids and parents should be raising money for themselves.

    I think it is valuable to question all programs, staffing, even the way buildings are utilized. Lots of non-teaching programs, staffing, were added incrementally when times were good, and each probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Now that there is a need for cutbacks, and the decisions of the past are examined, those of us who did not track what was going on are astounded by the amount of staffing involved in special programs, "intervention" and the like. I am wondering when and why did we agree to devote 2 whole buildings to just 6th graders with all the commensurate admin, maintainance and clerical staffing needed to run a separate building. And fine, ask "where have you been?" I will honestly admit I didn't realize or didn't pay as close attention as I should. I voted for levies and now it looks like they funded a lot of nice-to-haves rather than essentials. But I'm tuned in now, and we should question everything.

    Salaries, raises and benefits must be brought in line with the real world, but I believe the key is to get back to basic education.

  9. ts I want you to know I agree with you and I am sure many others
    do too. My point from my previous post, is that perhaps some positions could have been saved, with less increases, and some cooperation and understanding on current economic conditions by the HEA and admin.

    I would think that adjustments can be properly made to have assistance to the the 6th grade principals by some administrators at the Central Office to help out.

  10. I doubt that the Board retreat costs $30K (nor do I know what the Camp Joy program costs for that matter). But the point is taken - it's bad optics once again.


  11. I'll agree that fiscal responsibility is important, but I believe that public schools face increased challenges than existed in the 70s. Among them are increased number of unfunded mandates and a decided increase in the number of English Language Learners.

    No offense meant, but I do find it somewhat disconcerting when folks seem to be unaware of some important facts (such as there are two 6th grade schools, not one). Not to mention that the information was in the clear on the schools' websites, not hidden.

    I am somewhat curious about the vote "NO on upcoming levies (Nov 08 / Mar 09) group"...

    Should the district be forced to cut another $18M then? What do you think the district and our community look like after that? Under what circumstances would you ever even consider voting for a levy?

    Have a good day!

  12. According to the proposal last night, I want to know how they can claim that they are saving us money by not hiring an AD for Bradley when they haven't hired one yet?? What also doesn't make sense is that one slide (and Mr. McVey said it clearly) said that the 6th grade assistant pricipals were to be "phased out" by the end of 2009. Huh? How can they claim this as a cut now when we are still going to pay for the position next year.
    I also want to know if Mr. McVey has any plans to give up his $600 per month car allowance? And if any of the other administrators get car allowances. SHouldn't those go as well?
    Finally - having had a 6th grader, I can tell you that we paid plenty (over $100) to go to Camp Joy. It was the highlight of my daughter's year.

  13. I also find it somewhat disconcerting--to put it politely--that someone who did not even realize we had two sixth grade buildings (do you not ever drive though central Hilliard and read the building signs?)is offering suggestions for fixing the system.

    As a teacher, I'd like to make a suggestion for those of you who have all the easy answers for "cutting the fat" you believe exists in the district: how about if you get a volunteer badge and spend a day in each building actually figuring out what goes on before you criticize? You'll see assistant principals (yes, they actually work hard!!) as well as principals running to and from parent conferences and IEP meetings, supervising crowded lunchrooms, and disciplining kids, among other tasks. I won't even try to list everything you'll see teachers doing. And finally, you'll see students working way harder than I ever had to work at their age -- although I attended school in the mythical "golden age" of basic education, whatever that means.

    And if you still want to get rid of 6th grade buildings, that's fine...just understand that those kids have to go somewhere, so be ready to pony up some more money for building a 4th middle school!

  14. ABored: Their objective was to cut $4 million from the budget, not from current spending. So eliminating a position that is budgeted but not yet filled contributes to achieving the goal.

    To the teacher: Thanks for your comment. I can appreciate how insulting much of rhetoric associated with this situation is to you and your colleagues. As you say, very few critics of the schools truly understand what it is like to be a primary/secondary teacher these days.

    That's not to say there isn't waste. A wise friend of mine once told me that every large organization has a few percentage points of waste that can be eliminated, but it rarely happens absent a crisis. This is one of those times.

    Or, as I've said before, perhaps we've developed champaign tastes on a beer budget. Those kinds of corrections are never easy.

    It has been my feeling for a number of years now that our community would get exactly to this situation if the school leadership failed to get the people educated on the reality of school funding. I wrote my first ever letter to a School Board member on this very point in August 2000, and I've been singing this tune every since.

    It didn't have to go this way. Now as emotions rise, it will be very difficult to have a calm and effective dialog about school funding.

    It is now 202 days until the November election. Nearly 20% of the days between the last election and Nov 4th have already passed.

    The solution is not yet another survey, or an 11th hour campaign for voters. It's a well-crafted and effectively delivered community education program which explains the causes of the funding mess we the people of Hilliard have allowed to develop.

    And it will also take the willingness of the leadership to listen to how folks feel instead of holing up in Executive Session.

  15. Paul,

    Thank you for acknowledging that much of this rhetoric IS insulting to those who work in the schools. You're right that emotions are running high, and it IS hard to have a calm dialogue: that tends to happen when many of us who are low on the seniority list are waiting each day to see whether we have a job next year or not. And finding out that we haven't been cut isn't 100% cause for celebration, either, when we know we will face record-setting class sizes next year, in some cases with less administrative support, yet be held responsible for ensuring that EACH AND EVERY child experiences one year of growth in key academic areas. It's just a little daunting.

    It's one thing to theorize about the potential waste in all organizations. That is quite possibly true. However, what I wish people would understand is that having gone to school yourself (sometimes decades ago) does not automatically qualify you to assess the status of current public schools. That would be like me pretending to understand your organization (which I believe was IT-based?) simply because I use computers. I wonder how insulted some readers of this blog would be if I started posting opinions about how any of you could better run your places of business (let's say a grocery store) simply because I purchase your goods (in this case, groceries) each week? Certainly you would respond to let me know that I only see part of the picture as a consumer, right? Most likely I have little or no idea what truly goes on behind the scenes of many organizations. And as I have learned personally, simply having kids who attend the school district doesn't mean you understand how everything is done, either. We all only see part of the picture, and I guess I just want more posters to respect and understand that.

    Now, I do agree that many of the views posted here as well as the levy results indicate that we have a communication problem. As an organization that depends on public funding, we do have a responsibility to attempt to educate the public on what we do. No complaints there. But the public has to meet us halfway. Having your head in the sand until the times get rough, and then complaining about sixth grade buildings that have been in clear public view for years, for example, is not even attempting to meet us halfway.

    And I really am serious when I ask more of you to spend some time in our schools before you come up with solutions. It's only logical that you should see the situation firsthand before you talk about cutting people's jobs and programs. Again, to not do so would be like me voting to cut YOUR job and budget without really understanding what you do each day and what effect that action would have on your stakeholders. And in this case, our stakeholders are simply too precious, and the cost is too high, for us to make uninformed decisions.

  16. Even with a summer-long effort to educate the community on the challenges and costs, the board would be hard-pressed to get the support to pass a levy without presenting additional permanent budget cuts and without reaching an agreeement with teachers that brings the salary/raise/benefits structure up to date. Teachers work hard, we believe it. But to draw on the "how can you drive around Hilliard and not read the school signs" analogy: how can you live in this community/ country, read the paper, see the evening news and not realize that the pay and benefits you want in the new contract is significantly better than what anyone can get in any other profession today? You want guaranteed raises and step increases, 100% medical premiums, total job security, while most everyone else is getting no raises, paying 50% or more of medical premiums, and wondering if their job will exist tomorrow. Taxpayers can no longer afford the pay packages you have had in the past. It doesn't mean you are not appreciated or we think you don't work hard. We simply cannot afford it anymore because we are struggling to stay even. Most of us have already faced the hard reality that you either live with fewer raises and higher medical premiums, or risk the possibility that your job will be eliminated. Look to the UAW to see what the future holds if you don't change your expectations.

  17. Teacher: Well said.

    There are some problems with your analogy though. While you may not be qualified to judge my technical performance, if you were a customer of my business, you would certainly have the choice whether or not to buy my products. In private industry, we don't have funding problems - we have revenue problems! My next paycheck is completely dependent on satisfying our customers today, and even then it's still hard to cover expenses. The end can come quickly for many companies - just ask the former Skybus employees.

    The community has a unique relationship with the public schools. Are the people of the community the owners of the school district, or are we the customers? Do I have any choice as to which school serves me (my kids)? Not unless I move, and that's very difficult these days.

    The sum of all our frustrations shows up in the voting booth - the only time we as individuals get to directly influence how much of our money flows from our pockets to the school district.

    Unfortunately, the public doesn't have to meet the district leadership halfway. They don't even have to vote - less than half do (although this Presidential election may generate record turnout).

    That means the district leadership must be especially commited to developing and delivering a well-crafted tutorial on school funding.

    I've said to the Board many times that you would think that in an organization of hundreds of education professionals, someone could develop such a thing. I've taken a shot at it myself - and have heard the ah-has when people have seen the presentation and connected the dots for themselves.

    The Superintendent's column in the weekly newspapers is the perfect vehicle. That paper will be published 25 or so more times before the election.

    Or I bet Gary Orr and his IT team can put up a very cool web application that tells the story, allowing people to go through it at their own pace.

    How can an entire organization whose vocation is teaching be so bad at this?

  18. Anonymous at 10:35 wrote that, "the pay and benefits [teachers] want in the new contract is significantly better than what anyone can get in any other profession today." Really? Wow, you're right; I had no idea I had it better than ANYONE in ANY OTHER profession. Kind of makes me wonder why I don't live in Ballantrae or another super-affluent neighborhood instead of where I do...and how come most of my teacher friends can't afford those neighbhorhoods either. Apparently SOMEONE makes more than we do! And I'll tell you, I've never heard any of my teacher friends say they considered being a doctor, lawyer, computer engineer, or accountant, but went into teaching because it pays better--as if! You make some valid points in other areas, but you might want to try qualifying your statements at times in order to be more persuasive. I'm not saying teachers are not well-compensated; we are. But we do not make more than every other profession out there, by a long shot.

    And just to set the record straight, we have not asked for 100% paid medical premiums in the new contract. It's a shame so many people still think that. It's true that in past contracts, we traded the higher starting salaries some other districts enjoy for the 100% paid premium. But just last week, we offered to pay the *exact* premium percentages the Board had previously offered us, along with accepting their salary offer, provided reasonable caps are placed on how high those premium payments can go. And yet there's still no settlement. So be careful about those generalizations too.

    Finally, Paul, I like your suggestions about developing a tutorial to improve communication with the voters. Let's hope this time, it happens.

  19. Some facts regarding the proposed cuts from the administrative level for the 2008-09 school year: the two six grade principals will not actually be cut until the year 2009-10. Hmm, maybe a little time to change their minds? One of the "administrative positions" is athletic director at Bradley High School which, technically, is not even a position that exists. And if anyone was really paying attention at the board meeting on Monday, they never really did vote to approve any of these cuts. What a nice song and dance for the media though!

  20. As said above, cutting an existing position or one simply budgeted but not filled has the same consequence from a financial standpoint (but not a human one of course).

    And I was paying very close attention at the Board meeting, and heard Dale McVey say that he was presenting his plan to the Board at that time, and would come back to them with specific names for their approval at the next meeting. At that meeting a motion will be made and voted on. From that standpoint, the Superintendent and the Board were following an appropriate process.

    However, I am concerned that there was no meaningful discussion in the public meeting. Wouldn't you expect at least one Board member to say something like: "Mr. Superintendent, why did you choose to make cuts in position X instead of position Y?"

    The lack of such a discussion in the public meeting almost surely means that the discussion took place in private, and I think that's in violation of the Sunshine Law.

    I'm becoming concerned enough about this to consider engaging in more formal complaints, up to and including filing a lawsuit, which is the only course of action available under the Sunshine Law.


  21. It is the guaranteed step increases, the guaranteed raises, job security, pension and medical benefits that make up the premium pay package that most people no longer have.

    The bottom line is,I can ill afford $800 a year more in school taxes, when I am already struggling to stay even. As a taxpayer, basically I am the owner of a business. Business owners make decisions all the time based on what they can or can't afford.

    Paul, with both taxpayers and teachers/administrators here, I think this is a great opportunity for dialog. A little rough, but what debate over what happens to your own pocket book does not get a little emotional. I promise to avoid snarkiness as it is not my intention to hurt or insult our good teachers. If you would like to raise a question about violation of Sunshine Laws, I would support you.

  22. I believe I heard Ms. Bobbitt ask Mr. McVey who he consulted to come up with those cuts, and Mr. McVey replied that he had consulted his "administrators". Too bad he didn't have any other "interested parties" involved in the process. Can the community take a "no confidence" vote towards the Board? Or is there anything similar that parents and concerned community members can actually do?

  23. Can the community take a "no confidence" vote towards the Board? Or is there anything similar that parents and concerned community members can actually do?

    Absolutely. Showing up at school board meetings is a great step. Join me in the demand for more open and meaningful discussions at the Board meetings.

    And if you can get any sized group of people to gather and hear the funding presentation I've put together, we can start to make progress in this community education challenge.

    As far as a "no confidence" vote, there is no legal provision for that as far as I know. There is a process for recalling elected officials, but I'm not advocating such drastic measures.

    What I'm trying to do is break through the 'fortress mentality' of the Board, and convince them to err on the side of overcommunication rather than always defending the castle.

  24. Did you know that we have PAID hall monitors and noon aids?! My good God, you've got to be kidding me! That is just preposterous. If we have so many problem kids, that we have to pay people to watch the halls, get rid of the PROBLEM KIDS.

    I saw a 3rd grader assault a school employee this year. Why kids like this are allowed to go to school, is beyond me. Wonder how he's going to act in 12th grade, if he manages to stay out of jail long enough to make it to 12th grade. No wonder we need cops and paid adults to watch the halls - we have all these problem kids.

    I'm just astounded that this district has the kind of staff a prison would have, times 50! Do we need THAT many psychologists on staff? Why?!! Is it because people arem oving here to dump their emotionally disturbed kids into our district?

    They're getting rid of three gifted teachers, but only one psychologist. Again, that is preposterous.

    Foreign languages are going to be cut? I guess they don't want our kids to go on to college.

    Who made these decisions about what is to be cut?
    You know what else I want to know? Which school board members and administrators have kids that actually go to Hilliard schools? I know Denise Bobbitt doesn't. Her youngest graduated last year. I don't know about the others, so can someone out there tell me?

    Why can't the teachers and administrators all take a pay cut, even across the board, so nobody has to be fired? Instead, they gave administrators raises!!!

    This district needs a major overhaul. I'm sorry that the levy failed, but certainly not surprised. When the newspaper prints that we have to cut 4 million dollars from the school budget, and then on the SAME page prints the administrators got raises, why does anyone think the levy will pass in November? Most people are terribly offended by that.

    Paul, if they are having secret meetings and violating the Sunshine Law, I am behind you 100%.


  25. I remember hearing those stories by my dad about, "back when I went to school..." (blah, blah, blah). But here I am some 30 years later and dang if I'm not starting to sound like my own dad. When I went to school, the school system provided all those little necessities (not extra's) that the students needed. You know the things I'm talking about, pencils, writing tablets, crayons, etc...

    So needless to say when I first sent my child to school I was surprised about being asked to provide tissues and plastic bags, etc... but I did it. Each year as the school supply list comes out I think how much is it going to cost this year. Ouch!!!

    Okay enough with the yearning for yester year. We find ourselves in a real pickle here. First let me say that I think it's totally unrealistic in today's environment to have an expected level of pay increase solely upon time versus performance. That process may have made sense when teaching was considered a low paying career path, but quite honestly $50K+ is not a low pay class when you consider they work 3/4 of a year.

    Put into another perspective, a couple with both adults as teachers would earn nearly (if not more than) $100K annually. According to the IRS stats that would put them in the top 10% of households in the country. Pretty good gig if you have the patience to deal with children all day (which I don't so God Bless them).

    Having said that, I deal with issues everyday that I'm sure would be equally as undesireable to many teachers, so you follow your passion or get out.

    The concept of guarenteed salary increases is absurd. I for one was forced to take an 8% pay cut this last year. I still make good money, but you spend according to how you earn so that 8% still hurts. Meanwhile everything goes up in price 3% (lets factor gasoline of this equation). So now I've loss 11% versus the previous year.

    I point this out not to for a poor me feeling, but to point out that while I believe teachers and administrators should be paid well, the expectation of increase based solely upon time versus performance is absurd.

    Furthermore, if the budget is what they tell us it is, why not put it all out on a single full page of the local paper. I mean a full, line by line account, and then let us see where our money is really going.

    Let's also consider what assets we have, does the district still own that piece of land they originally wanted to build the high school on. I bet that's worth a huge chunk of money.

    I'm not saying that full disclosure will assure passing of a levy but it will at least open of a discussion with the voting public.

    I was floored when I read in "This Week - Hilliard" when the organizers pushing for the levy didn't understand why it failed. Let's leave the ivory tower long enough to have a view of reality. With the economic uncertainity of our country, and during a primary election, in a Presidential election year, and we've never passed a levy the first time it's on the ballot. Come on, are the organizers of these levy promoting organzations that disconnected with reality or are they drunk on the punch that the board is handling out.

  26. Chris:

    Great comments. Thanks for taking the time.

    On your point about the property, two things:

    1. Capital money and Operating money are two different things. While operating money can be applied to capital projects, the reverse is not true. Therefore even if the property is sold, the cash could not be used to offset operating costs.

    2. With the collapse of the housing market, this point is less relevant, but one could make the argument that it costs the district less to hold the land (and let it continue to be farmed) that it would to sell it - almost certainly to a developer - and have a couple hundred houses built on it and bear the cost of educating the kids who live there.

    By law, a piece of land like that has to be sold via auction. Since the only bidders are likely to be homebuilders, and the housing market is in the dumps, the bids wouldn't be very high. That's another argument for holding the land for better times....


  27. Paul,

    Thanks for the insight on the piece of land. Okay, I'm all for the school keeping hold of it. But should they decide to sell it, couldn't that money be directed toward the capital project of building the new school. Any excess from the levy could probably be directed toward operating cost. Seems kind of stupid as you are just shifting money from one pocket to another, but anyway.

    Let them keep the land, that way a developer doesn't put a bunch of new homes on it and put an even heavier burden on our school system. Or would they be subject to bussing to Columbus Public?

    If and when they do decide to sell the land, they should consider getting the area rezoned for commercial/industrial development so that will prevent more homes. Not trying to keep people out of Hilliard, but a commercial/industrial base would only serve to help the burden of the schools.

  28. The cash to fund the school was/is raised through the selling of bonds. If they're selling bonds in chunks as they go, mirroring the payouts to the contractors, then yes, cash raised from the sale of the property could potentially be used in lieu of selling some bonds. That would in turn relieve us of the burden of paying down the interest and principal on those bonds not sold.

    But the typical mode of selling bonds is to put them all on the market at once, as there's a whole bunch of risks associated with going to the bond market repeatedly.

    It would be analogous to me wanting to borrow $120,000 but doing it in $10,000 hunks once each month over a year. Interest rates might be low and my credit rating high at the beginning, but by the time I take out the loan for the last $10,000, I might have lost my job, gotten behind on some bills, and seen interest rates go crazy. I would have been better off borrowing the whole $120,000 at once.

    And no, any excess from the bond levy could not be applied to the operating deficit. Bond money can only be used for capital purchases.

    Besides, there's not supposed to be any significant excess anyway. The bond levy language authorizes the Board to sell up to a certain amount of bonds.In this case, it was $75 million. That money is supposed to cover the construction cost of both Washington Elementary ($10 million) and Bradley High School ($65 million - whew!).

    By the way, if you are familiar with the former CompuServe campus on Britton Rd, that entire complex cost us about $35 million to build in 1994. It includes hundreds of offices, training facilities, a large commercial kitchen and dining facility, a fitness center, and a 10,000 sqft state of the art computer center with a massive amount of internet connectivity. It is probably one of the finest office buildings in the city - certainly outside of downtown. It sits on 80 acres of land.

    At about half the price we're spending on Bradley...


  29. Paul some excellent financial information, Chris also had some great points.

    As a dis to the every day taxpayer, I doubt that anyone will ever really understand the difference between the bond issue and the operating levy.
    Of course it could be made easier from a functional standpoint by
    the states.

    I am wondering out loud, responding to the staff member? who noted that the teacher are willing to adjust the medical plan, raises? I think in that case it is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to understand but rather the HEA to
    communicate. Rather itwould seem both the admin and HEA have a problem with properly communicating the C word. Communication

    I will state this................
    I think most people respect what the teachers and staff have to do.
    I think most people value the schools and the product that comes out. The reality is this, there ar e many well off financially in this district. However, the other reality is that a majority have not
    experienced the type of medical
    benefit, time off, raises, including steps, and now with
    economic uncertainty, they are
    yelling "hold that line"
    Teachers are not overpaid in my opinion, but the reality is someone sees a premium medical plan, and looks at the 250 plus per month
    plus big deductible and says WHY?
    The individual sees limited job security and merit raises only
    and compares it to the current contract, and the raises offered in the current negotiation and says
    WHY because they are seeing limited
    raises 2% based on merit, not
    seniority, as with the steps.

    You can take this prediction to the bank, unfortunatly receive no
    interest, only more confusion
    But if the HEA and the Board and the administration play the
    "You dont understand" "You dont
    understand what we do or have to deal with" " The public doesnt
    understand the consequences"
    et al. Watch the levies go down in
    flames.!! That would be unfortunate, but I would suggest
    that the board, HEA, and admin
    NOT bite the hands that feed them
    The attitudes I am hearing are
    not reassuring, and I am very pro

    I would suggest the District including the Board, Admin and HEA
    because they are usually very tight
    together, and perhaps the city
    elected officials, with all their
    money and clout, and campaign warchests, support a candidate
    for State Sen, and State Rep, who
    can deliver the goods for districts like Hilliard.

    Paul has done a great job with this site, to facilitate some dialog
    education and understanding.
    Everyone, no matter how you feel can learn alot here.

    Lots of cliches

    KIDS ! sic sic

  30. Representative Ted Celeste, who represents a significant portion of the Hilliard City School District, wants to hear from Hilliard School District residents on educational issues facing our community.

    What: Community Forum on Public Education

    When: Monday, April 28 at 7 pm

    Where: Hilliard Crossing Elementary, 3340 Hilliard Rome Rd

    Please attend this event and encourage others, as well. This is a great opportunity to have your voice and opinions heard before the state house makes school funding decisions.

  31. School Funding Basics
    ACT for Schools Presentation
    What: “School Funding Basics”

    Residents of the Hilliard City School District are invited to attend “School Funding Basics,” an informational meeting to learn more about how school funding works in Ohio and its implications to the Hilliard City Schools community.

    Who: Presented by ACT for Schools (Advocate, Collaborate, Teach), a school district volunteer community committee

    When: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    7:00 PM
    Where: J.W. Reason Elementary School, 4790 Cemetery Road

    Why must so many Ohio school districts be on the ballot so often? Residents will have the opportunity to learn why during the “School Funding Basics” presentation. ACT committee members will explain how school funding works in the state of Ohio and how the Hilliard City Schools community is impacted. There will be opportunity for questions at the end of the presentation.

  32. Paul:

    The message that any action on the part of the state to "fix" school funding will likely be negative to wealthy suburban districts must be told. Strickland is going to "fix" school funding next year. Even if taxes are raised, more money will not flow to Hilliard and it will make it twice as hard to pass local levys. That message must get communicated to Celeste.

  33. I'm going to the meeting on the 30th. Unfortunately, it will be tough for me to make BOE meetings for awhile. My daughter has softball on Monday evenings.

    I trust the bloggers will keep me informed.

  34. If we don't pass the next attempt, forget about a lot of things like band, bussing, gifted programs and many sports (other than pay $1000 to play). Try to cut 18 - 20M any other way while still teaching our kids. Please just vote yes in the fall.

  35. To the anonymous commentor with the plea to "please just vote yes in the fall."

    I think you need to understand that no one wants to have the children suffer, but the thoughts are that we can just keep throwing money at the problem. Yes, we may need to pass the levy, but is that the only thing we can do. The concern really is that no one trusts the school board here, and I think that stems from the fact that they keep coming to the community with their hand out simply expecting that they're entitled to an increase without due diligence on their part. And maybe that due diligence is truely there, but it's behind closed doors so that we, the very people their asking more money from, aren't privey to these behind doors conversations.

    In fact, I spoke with several teachers recently and have been enlightened a little on the situation with their medical and contract negotiations. There's real problems here.

    So you pay a $1000 for your son to play football. That's for what 4 years? The alternative is that you pay increased taxes of $800 for the next 20 years or until you decide to move. That's a savings of $12,000. Yes, I'm being a little cavalier here, but what we're saying is that before we decide to give them another chunk of money have we truely trimmed all the fat (and I'm not saying people or insurance is fat) from the expenses.

    As the head of a household I constantly have to look at where and how my money is being spent. It's only prudent to do so. It's when I get lazy and coast for awhile that my expenses go to crap and then I look at my check book and say, "Dang, where did I spend all that money?" That's what we're asking the board to do, and here's the critical component, share all the information with us, not just the fact that they think they've got a money situtation.

    Did you remember that the school board reported an estimated $15million overage last fall ( ). That rainy day fund is still there just in case, but hasn't been spoken about because the board doesn't want to remind anyone. Get my point?

    The teachers are mad because they're working without a contract. The biggest outlay of the budget is related to them, and the point of contention is around the medical insurance. Are you aware that they have been changing insurance companies yearly (just like my company does) all in the interest of seeing which company is cheapest. Yes that's an unforunately, pain-in-the-butt reality of medical insurance, but has anyone considered other options. Currently they're looking at a 27% increase in their medical (I went 32% nearly 5 years ago). How about giving them options such as an HSA. Those that are healthy will migrate towards the HSA because it's a good deal for them. Those that use the insurance heavily will pay higher premiums. That's the way it works in the private sector.

  36. Chris:

    Thanks for your comment - well said.

    On your point about the $15 million overage:

    What you are seeing the balance of the General Fund - the amount of money in the bank. It's not a rainly day fund like a savings account, but rather the active checking account where income is deposited and from which checks for expenses are written.

    The way levy funding works is that on the first years of a new levy, the tax revenue is greater than the operating expenses, and the balance of the checking account (general fund) increases.

    Then in subsequent years, the spending catches up with the revenue, and eventually surpasses it. When that happens, the general fund balance starts going down. The trick is to not let the account run dry.

    The Income minus Expenses for last year was $5.8 million (seen on line 6.010), meaning the general fund would be increased by that amount. Indeed if you look at the last line of forecast in the column for FY06, you'll see $9.4 million. Adding the $5.8 million surplus for FY07 causes the General Fund to grow to $15.4 million.

    But look at FY07. Line 6.010, Excess of Revenue over Expenses is a negative $4.5 million. We have hit that crossover point. The projected balance of the general fund at the end of this year is $10.9 million.

    The real problem is next year. Revenue minus Expenses is $14.5 million (nearly 3 times what it will be this year). This spending deficit sucks up all the money in the general fund and still falls $3.6 million short.

    That's the reason for the $4.5 million in cuts going on right now.

    So while it may be common practice for a School Board to allow spending to go from generating a surplus to running a deficit, that's okay as long they manage the balance of the general fund.

    But our School Board felt it was more important to be able to say they "stretched the levy for four years" than it was to make sure we had enough money in the checking account.

    And so they have taken us right to the brink of disaster. A school district cannot deficit spend, so when the levy failed, they had to take the $4.5 million out of the budget to keep from bouncing checks.

    I've been in business a long time. Protecting your cash is one of the top 2-3 things a business owner must do. Just ask the folks at Skybus. When they ran out of cash - they were done.

    While the members of our Board are good people, none of them are business owners or business executives (until Dave Lundregan was elected). They have no experience with the harsh reality of cash management. They simply think the money is due them because, after all, it's our school system we're talking about.

    That's because they don't understand the 'sales' part of their job. As long as it is true that the people of the community have a choice in how well to fund our schools, there is a need for the school leadership to build and maintain a relationship of trust with the people who exercise that choice. In my experience, that requires a long and sustained commitment to communicate, educate, and listen.

    But our Board doesn't understand the need, nor know how to pull it off. That's the reason they support the Getting It Right For Ohio's Future amendment - because it relieves them of that burden.

    And it takes away our choice.

  37. While new levy dollars will be needed
    I think the suffering part is a bit
    over the top.

    If it is for the kids, which I actually do believe then WHY?

    Did we give 4% increases to admin
    at the same time we are in the hole?

    That premium compensation and medical
    benefits have been granted when we dont have the money? The understanding in the current contract being negotiated is that raised will continue to be in
    the 7 to 8% with step increases

    Why doesnt the board and the HEA
    leadership/note did not say teachers not understand about the everyday medical costs individuals
    have been paying for some time now?

    An example of real costs increases
    Insurance that covers dental, vision, medical with big deductibles
    $225.00 per month plus out of pocket
    No where near what district staff would pay, and only merit raises for year are 1.75 % no seniority
    Work day extended. 8 holidays off
    1 week of vacation after 1 year
    2 after 7 3 sick days

    So the question would be, how would
    that family pay 5 to 600 dollars more a year. Medical increases
    that perhaps a 1.75 raise will cover based on MERIT not seniortiy
    vs 7 to 8% raises.

    So in order to pass the levy, I think most people would support
    a major change to medical
    and 3to 4% raises with no step
    increases possible.

    Now typically you will here back
    well that is not my problem and
    deal with it. And in regular economic times you can get people to vote yes.

    But we are in a different time witness 3.59 at the pump today

    The facts are it isnt about the kids but about raises in compensation

    The disappointment is the total lack of leadership from the admin
    and the leadership of the HEA

    If you can give out 4% adm raises
    then you can cut some more !