Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Decision on the Levy

One of the lessons learned when studying engineering is that 90% of the work is in framing the problem. The math and physics are pretty straightforward once the question is appropriately defined. This has been my challenge with deciding how I would vote on the levy - framing the question.

The question is not about my personal ability to afford a tax increase, although I'll tell you that this economy has had a significant impact on our retirement income. The tax increase associated with this levy would not go unfelt in our household.

I am certainly concerned about the impact of additional taxes on the most vulnerable in our community - those on fixed incomes and those who have lost employment - and expressed this concern during a recent School Board meeting. From the perspective of the public entity - the school district in this case - property taxes are an excellent funding mechanism because they tend to remain constant regardless of the state of the economy. But from the perspective of a taxpayers, property taxes can be a nightmare because they remain constant even when one's income falls. Even the Federal government gives you a break on taxes when you lose you job. But property tax bills keep on coming regardless.

I am not swayed by the claims that the district cut spending by $6.5 million. Spending has gone up year after year at an annual growth rate of 4.7%, almostly entirely due to increasing spending on compensation and benefits. I'm not saying that this is good or bad. It's just the truth.

Nor is this levy being driven by an increase in the number of of students, or even the number of employees, as you can see from this chart.

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When the last levy was passed in 2008, the student enrollment was 15,150. This grew to 15,487 by the end of 2010, an increase of 337 students or 2.2%. In the same period, spending rose from $146.4 million to $157.2 million, an increase of $10.85 million, or 7.4% - more than three times the rate of student growth.

It troubles me that there is no mention in the levy campaign literature as to the opinions expressed by the Audit & Accountability Committee, a team of highly educated and experienced business professionals who were recruited to serve as the independent voice of our community in regard to the fiscal management of our school district. The formation of this committee was one of the commitments made during the last levy campaign. Now it is as though the Audit & Accountability Committee doesn't exist - at the very time when one would think the levy campaign team and the district leadership would want to tout the Committee's findings. But their findings weren't that rosy - calling our current rate of spending growth "unsustainable."

I am also deeply troubled by what I feel is inadequate strategic planning by the School Board and the executive management of the District. Without question, the 2020 Plan is an impressive compilation of many elements of a strategic plan. But it lacks the fiscal component. The programming it describes is wonderful, but how much will it cost, and how will we pay for it?  Those answers should be well known by the leadership and the people of our community when this enterprise consumes over $160 million per year of our tax dollars.

I have been saying for a long time that the state is going to expect affluent districts to carry more and more of their own funding burden. The Dispatch has just analyzed the latest rendition of the State budget, and reports that this easy-to-make prediction is now a painful reality.

The consequence of the Governor's proposed State budget, if it remains unchanged (it is now in the hands of the General Assembly), is a further reduction of state funding beyond what Treasurer Brian Wilson had already forecast in Oct 2010 - on the order of $10 million spread over the next four years. This means that if we froze spending at FY11's level for the next four years, we still have a funding deficit that accumulates to $35 million by the end of FY15:

click to enlarge

With the passage of this 6.9 mill levy - and spending frozen at the current level - the picture looks much better...

click to enlarge

Notice that the adjusted revenue and spending lines are nearly coincident in the chart above. In fact, the revenue line is about $3 million per year higher than the spending line, which is why the cash balance slowly builds in this scenario. If expenses were frozen at FY11 levels, it would take a levy of about 5.5 mills to exactly match the revenue with current spending.

That's not all due to the state funding cutbacks - we will end FY11 with a spending deficit of approximately $5 million - driven mostly by rising compensation costs (see "Budget Costs"). That's equal to about 2 mills. So 2 mills are on us, 3.5 mills are on the State. Therefore, 6.9 mills covers our current deficit, covers the cuts in State funding, and starts to generate a little surplus at current spending levels.

With this collection of data, I now have enough information to pose the question that allows me to make my voting decision. That question is:

If this levy is passed, do I trust the Board, Administration, Teachers and Staff to work together and with the Community to build an operating plan which has spending growing at a rate of no more than 1.8% per year, which is the maximum rate at which spending can be allowed to grow and not have another 7 mill levy on the ballot before 2014 - three years from now (as depicted in the graph below)?

Click to Enlarge
My answer has to be YES.

I have to believe that we, as a community, can and must find a way to both preserve the excellence of Hilliard City Schools and reduce our rate of spending growth to 1.8% per year, down from the 4.7% annual growth rate in which we have indulged ourselves over the past several years. That goal is why I ran for the School Board, and I believe that's why you elected me.

For me to vote NO on this levy means to admit defeat: that I don't believe we can find a way to work together over the next few months to reach such a goal, and that the only way to restore sustainable economics is to compel the leadership of the District - by withholding additional funding through a string of levy defeats - to cut programs and lay off a great number of teachers, administrators and staff (approximately 100 by my calculations). Or to try to negotiate significant pay cuts - on the order of 6% - and to freeze compensation at that level for several more years.

So it's really a matter of trust.

Do you trust that this School Board and Administration will work hard this year, in partnership with the employee unions and the community, to begin restoring sustainable economics to our District?  If so, then a YES vote is warranted.

However, if that trust is not there, then I understand a NO vote on this levy. But that's not the end of your responsibility. You need to explain your wishes and ideas to the School Board, and participate in the process of putting things on a new course, whatever that may be. That certainly includes playing your part in deciding who should represent you on the School Board when two seats come up for election this November.


  1. I recognize Paul's in a tough spot. I have a lot of respect for him and understand his decision.

    That said, I don't trust the board, administration and teachers to solve the problem. I say that because the misleading information -- no, outright lies -- the district and the pro-levy campaign (mainly funded by, it appears, teachers) have put out in this election cycle shows me they have no interest in solving problems.

    You might like to know that $4.5m of the $6.5m in "cuts" "since 2008" were actually the cuts implemented when the levy failed initially in 2008. You'll recall that those cuts were reversed when the levy passed.

    So not only is $6.5m utter BS given that the spending has gone up $15.5m, the "cuts" aren't even $6.5m, but are only $2m!

    So this household will be voting NO simply to send a message that "enough is enough". We sincerely believe that if enough people vote "NO" the board, the administration and the teachers might actually "get it" and maybe then we might get a solution.

    But a yes vote simply tells them they can continue to lie, cheat and (effectively) steal from us to line the pockets of the district's employees.

  2. Paul, thanks again for your effort in going to great lengths in communicating your thought process with a boatload of facts, and for your optimism and attempts that something will change. There is more reasoning and facts presented in this one article than I have seen from your four peers - combined - since you have been on the Board.

    My answer to your question is "No". I put my trust in the Board three years ago when I agreed to give them the breathing room to stop the unsustainable momentum. I didn't necessarily trust the "Accountable" theme of the last campaign, but two Board members openly said in the 2009 School Board debate that they would utilize the recommendations of that committee. "Why wouldn't we... they are the experts." Now, we come to find out that their sole purpose is to validate that the books are done correctly, not to provide sound financial advice.

    There is an elephant in the room (and it is NOT state funding), and how can I trust someone who doesn't admit it is there?

  3. I hope Paul you realize a YES Vote means kicking the can down the road once again!! This blog likes to present statistics and facts, and does a great job of breaking them down for a layman to help understand them, and I thank you for this. But, the facts and stats prove out that in 2 years time we will be in worse shape,and I mean far worse shape.... How can we put trust into this current administration? They have fooled more than once !! Send the message now and VOTE NO !!
    Then we as a community will need to make some changes at the top ( ie .. Board , Admin , ect...) so as we the people can stear a new and brighter coarse for our kids future academia. Granting more and more compensation will not cure this ill, change must come from within. A VOTE NO will be the catalyst needed for the change , Please people, wise-up and VOTE NO on #7 !!!

  4. Paul - Thank you for your input. You are right, it does come down to trust. And I DO trust that these people (Board, Administrators, teachers) that I see out in the community every day WILL do the right thing once the levy passes. There is no other way for the community to respond. You have made an argument that I agree with. My household will be voting YES.
    Thank you for making it so clear and obvious for those of us on the fence.

  5. I'm leaning toward NO because I haven't seen a single plan to cut spending with any real detail. With the amount of money we have all paid through our property taxes (which I thought was unconstitutional) WE DESERVE SPECIFICS. And I don't trust the Board or the HCSD will actually get it's hands dirty to make the hard decisions. They are all thinking about their jobs and not the taxpayer and certainly not the kids. I fully understand that it costs a lot to educate our children, but I get frustrated when I don't get a raise (as in the last 2 years) but administrators and some teachers get raises because they showed up and had a heart beat.

  6. FYI - the Ohio Supreme Court never said it is unconstitutional to use property taxes as part of the funding mix for schools. It said that it is unconstitutional to fail to provide enough state funding for the poorest distrits so as to augment reasonable property taxes sufficiently to allow the provision of a "thorough and efficient education."

    So it was the state funding mechanism which was found to be unconstitutional, not property taxes.

  7. I stand corrected, thank you Paul. But it still doesn't sway me towards YES. I really want to see specifics on how the spending is going to be cut / scaled back. I know it's not politically smart to get into details but this isn't a political issue anymore - it's a math issue. I know you are trying hard as a board member and almost always a lone desenter. Keep putting up the fight.

  8. As to the comment above about "kicking the can down the road"--

    I understand how you could look at it this way, and I don't disagree.

    But this has happened because nothing has really changed since the last levy. A growing, but still small number of people are now engaged in the process of governing our school district. But most remain ignorant and apathetic about how decisions are made that directly affect the programming and services offered by the district, and how those programs and services are funded.

    It's like falling asleep at the wheel while flying down the freeway with the cruise control set. With every decision opportunity (levy, board seats), we drift further toward the edge of the road.

    I just hope we collectively wake up before slam into a bridge abutment!

  9. Sorry Paul but I will never vote in favor of another school levy!! When there is a major change in our incompetent administrators and school board members,then and only then,will I consider it!!

  10. The Board did not do the right thing in 2008, and yet I voted Yes for that levy. I cannot be true to myself and vote Yes this time. This Board, and the unions, need a wake-up call, and they need to stop with the misleading reasons why we need this levy. Pass or fail, they will continue to spout the same rhetoric unless, and until, more people call them out on it. The reason so many are "ignorant" is because they are not being given the real facts! Whose fault is that - those who believe what comes out of the administration and the pro-levy folks, or those who are dispensing the erroneous "facts"?
    I blame the latter. I smell collusion between both sides in regards to the current contract extension and I am not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt this time. I am officially a No vote.

  11. To the Anonymous who said " I DO trust that these people (Board, Administrators, teachers) that I see out in the community every day WILL do the right thing once the levy passes."

    Why do you trust them if the levy passes? We already know what they plan if it fails -- to cut $3.89m of education so they can still increase compensation by $4m.

    Seems to me that they'll only consider doing the right thing if we give them more money.

    If you still believe they'll do the right thing, I have a gold mine in Florida to sell you...

  12. Kicking the can said...
    I disagree Paul some things did change- The administrators and teachers all got 7% + ( some 12% + if they got a Masters) increases, thus, the line on the graph for comp.and benefits continued to get steeper. As Anon said - NO Specific Plans have been made public that adress a true discoarse. If you vote YES and nothing does change in 2 years , without a doubt, there will be a big crash with many fatalities. I think a VOTE NO will start the process in motion and give us time to build the TRUST back before the next Levy comes around !! VOTE NO TOMORROW !! I can guess how the other board member will be voting ....

  13. Paul, this is essentially the same argument you made here:

    So here we are, 2 1/2 years later and by your own admission, nothing has changed. You are still saying we need to pass this levy and then change the board or the administration, an argument that you will presumably still be making two years from now.

    As the saying goes - fool me once, shame on you.... fool me twice...

  14. Just to be clear - I am not trying to convince anyone to vote for the levy. I'm just trying to explain my reasoning for how I will vote, which is that, with greater public engagement, I believe we can make something different happen in this cycle, and that this additional money is needed because we (you and me both) haven't yet fixed anything yet.

    As I explained, it takes 5.5 mills just to cover our current spending and the state cuts.

    I think that's what confuses the issue for many voters - whether the intention is to send a "no confidence" message to the current leadership, or to demand that current programs and salaries be cut deeply enough so that our district can be operated with our property taxes at the current rates (ie "no new taxes!")

    I am certain that if this levy fails, another will be put on the ballot in November, if not August. The customary strategy for a school district is to keep threatening to take away more with each defeat until the people cry "uncle," as happened in South Western when their Board eventually cut all extracurricular activities.

    I want to see us all sit down and figure out a long-term strategy well before it comes to that. I need your help convincing the rest of the district leadership of this, as my one vote alone won't change anything. That's the reason I say that if you choose to vote NO on this levy, that's not the end of the process.

    There is still a ton of work to get done, pass or fail.

  15. If my tax rate were middle of the road compard to other districts, I could consider giving the Admin and Board the benefit of the doubt.

    But our rates are already among the highest around.

  16. Paul,

    You know I have great respect for you, but the only message this board will understand at this time is a BIG defeat.

    I also happen to believe that a BIG defeat is the one thing the board needs to make sure we negotiate the next contract that is fair to BOTH sides, rather than the one-sided nonsense that usually comes out the other end.

    Remember, this is an election year. There are two board members that (we assume) will run for re-election. This is not a year they're going to ignore the voters. Send the right message.

    But I do understand what Paul's saying; by voting yes he's saying he trusts himself to do the right thing and that voting no is akin to giving up. I get that, and if I were a board member I might use the same reasoning to produce a "yes" vote as well.

    But I'm not, and I don't trust the others in the room with Paul with a cent more of my money or anyone else's.

  17. Paul has provided a great outlet to discuss serious issues, funding, communcation,etc and I respect his opinion while disagreeing with his

    The best way to look at the election is via pass or fail on the 3 key points. Trust me I wanted to go on and on with explanations but I am doing all of you a favor to spare you the details.

    1. Communication by the Board, District HEA with the community
    2. Financial spending growth control FAIL
    3. Protecting our Students from work to the contract and HEA actions FAIL

    Suggestions from Community
    Starting May 4th

    1. Reopen contract. Extend freezes for remainder of 2011-12 contract. Increases in compensation in 2012-13 1.75% No steps
    2013-14 2% Steps for 1-15 1.25% Move benefit contribution to 16% 1.55 increase in pension contribution by HEA
    2. Eliminate underused unneeded programs
    IE Sports Adm. Check enrollment in classes over 5 year period. Thorough review of all supplemental contracts IE Sports,coaches
    needed, weight room, etc.
    3. Return control of our schools weighted toward the community, not HEA leadership.Eliminate tax payer funding of Union positions that pay them for not working in classroom. Should be borne by employees only
    4. Make true commitment to listen to the tax paying community. Eliminate adverse effects on students during contract negotiations by putting specific language in contract prohibiting detrimental conduct toward students.

    Paul, I think the board should be capable of working these type of things out. But in the abscence trust that a detailed plan will be presented even if the board does not want to listen !

  18. Paul, I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for your dedication to Hilliard Schools. Your work on this web site is amazing in it's depth and clarity. I really appreciate all of your efforts. You are a huge asset for this community.

    But I have no trust in the current school board to do the right thing and negotiate the next contract with the needs of the community in mind. I will not willingly give 45% of my family's total raise in income this year to Hilliard teachers. Why should I give so much of what little we will get, to them? The board and the teachers need to understand the sacrifices that are already being made for them. And enough is enough. We will vote what we hope will be part of a resounding NO.

  19. Paul - I will be voting NO as well. In the past decade, I have taken over a 25% CUT in salary; due to no critical fault of my own. For the most part, companies have folded under me; one of which you, too, were involved. I am essentially on a fixed income, far too early in life. (I really do not know how the true fixed income people make ends meet with respect to property taxes.) Our property taxes have increased over 200% since we moved into the district in 1993. (What happened to taxes doubling every thirty years?) The last levy was to give the Board time to figure out how to make the ends meet for a fiscally sound school system. It appears all that has happened is we are a couple of years further along the road, and not much has changed, except continued spending. In a chat with a HSD teacher, they agreed, Hilliard does not have a revenue problem, there is clearly a spending problem. This household is a solid NO vote; given the present circumstances.

  20. To Anon 11:32, I don't think it is fair to call our Administrators "incompetent". In reality, I firmly believe that they have been very, very good when it comes to academic performance and offerings in the classroom.

    However, confronting the issues that are required to balance the foundation for sustained academic excellence with a realistic budget has been lacking.

    As Paul has mentioned many times before, champagne taste on a beer budget.

  21. Paul, can you give us best place to get quick results on the levy thanks

  22. Rick: Wherever the levy campaign headquarters is will get the first results, as I'm sure they'll send runners around to the precincts to get counts off the results tapes that get taped up in the windows by the poll crew. Trouble is that I haven't a clue where the campaign headquarters is going to be.

    Next best will be the local TV stations - hard to tell who will have the best coverage. But there aren't a whole lot of things on the ballots around the county, and many polling locations won't every be open (including the one where I normally work), so the counting should happen pretty quickly.

  23. Brother R: Thanks for your note. I absolutely respect your choice, and those of all the others who have said they will vote NO tomorrow.

    Whichever this vote goes, we have a lot of work to do, and it will start immediately with the preparation of a new Five Year Forecast.

  24. Paul,

    I like your way of thinking! Appeasement is always the best strategy I say. I am sure once we give the district more money and it is explained to the union bosses how the 4.7 % spending growth is unsustainable they will say "Yes we see how mistaken we were but now understand and agree that compensation growth needs to be kept at 1.8% or below"

    -Neville Chamberlain

  25. Kicking the can said ...
    Thank you to the someone who stole my VOTE NO 7
    right out of my front yard, that was a real treat. But just remember .... A dish really cold and wet is about to be served. Now let's get this right for the kids this time.

  26. I understand the Neville Chamberlain reference. However, in this case, I'm advocating that we set a goal of 1.8% CAGR regardless of whether or not the levy passes. The difference will be how much we have to unwind spending from where we already are.

    5.5 mills of the 6.9 will match revenue to current spending. The rest will support spending growth. Then the question is for how long?

    Well, if we don't put the brakes on spending growth, we'll hit the wall in 2 years - if we have no more surprises from the State.

    With a serious reduction in the rate of spending growth, the interval to the next levy can be lengthened.

    To breakeven without a levy, and with the state funding cuts as we now understand them (remember, the 'cut list' was developed BEFORE we knew the full picture on state funding - which was my objection), we need to reduce our current annual expenses from ~$161m to $150m, a reduction of $11m or 7.6%.

    I wonder if our community would survive the effort it would take to get there...

  27. Why would we not survive? $150m is still above 2009 spending levels!

    Good grief; we really need to a grip on reality here.

    Since our properties are still valued at 2005 levels, and the auditor is predicting a reduction of 8% of that in the 2011 revaluation, how about we start at 2005 levels?

    That'd be $125m.

    Then we can talk.

  28. Paul, it would involve pay reductions certainly along with benefit reductions. However I think if that happens we could pass a levy then to make up for some of the 11 million in cuts.

    I am confident, going expense line by expense line
    benefit, by benefit, pension contribution and fee increases we could get to that point and then campaign hard to restore some of the cut wages.

    Everyone says we cant, never been allowed in my workplaces to say that.

    Given the fact that the district cant even give a decent notice on a coffee, not up as of 1:30pm, why would we give anymore money to a bunch that could care less about what the community thinks anyway.

  29. I said "survive the effort" with the emphasis on the word "effort." There's no way to unwind spending back to FY09 levels (ie $12m/yr less than FY11) without some really hard choices being made.

    It's easy to envision the target - much harder to make it happen. There can't be any armchair quarterbacking on this one - people would have to get involved in the process.

  30. The point I would like to make is that you and everyone else on this blog might consider a 1.8% CAGR as a very reasonable and moderate proposal. However, I expect the unions will try to characterize it as extreme and it will be met with much wailing and nashing of teeth. So if any proposal to limit spending will be met with huge resistance anyway then why not go for cuts large enough to cover the state spending cuts without another levy and which put the schools on a sustainable path. I think the effort required will as large either way. The unions are in business to get higher wages for their members. They are not going to accept 1.8% growth for any significant time. If they did their members might wonder why they are paying them the dues.


  31. In other words, I'm not sure our community is prepared to have the dialog, because they don't really understand the problem - the precise point I've been making for years. If we had spent the last several years educating the community on school economics, then we might have a good chance of working together to find a rational solution.

    But since people don't understand the economics, every decision is emotional, and this one would be emotional warfare. There are a number of examples in Ohio of school districts and communities melting down precisely because their leaders have failed to prepare them for this exact situation.

    South Western came close. Little Miami is already there - a community much like ours that has failed a string of levies, and is now under state control. That's what happens when we can't solve our own problems....

  32. Neville:

    1.8% CAGR is a just a number I threw against the wall of course. We could pick any goal - including a rollback to FY09 levels - but those who champion that goal have to be willing to back it up with action.

    That's all I'm saying.

  33. We have to expect that there will be some growth in expenses year to year - to think about rolling back to FY 2009 is, in my opinion, totally unrealistic. And setting unrealistic goals only leads to disappointment. I don't think, however, that we can even start discussing our future until the new contracts are settled. I don't really know how much more input the administration and board need in order to convince them that past compensation trends are not going to get it done. I have never heard anyone stand up in front of them and say "pay the staff MORE money". Instead their own A & A committee has told them that the trend is unsustainable, and blogs such as this point out the same thing. As well, folks like Justin, Rick and Mike have spoken at the meetings. If they don't get it by now, they will never get it. Guess we will see before December - they might want to hurry that discussion up should the levy fail today.
    When I look at the spending from year to year, I don't see anything EXCEPT compensation increasing beyond that 1.8% so if compensation increases beyond that, the board should be responsible enough to tell us where the money is going to come from. I truly doubt that they will tell us though. They will merely kick the can down the road - again.
    FYI - I sent Mr. Maggied an e-mail two weeks ago regarding the article/letter by him in the district newsletter promoting the levy and expressing my belief that it was treading on thin ice regarding campaign law, and I asked for his thoughts on the matter. I'm still waiting for a response. This is the President of a school board whom I am supposed to trust? I don't trust them as far as I could throw the administration building.

  34. Take a lesson from the unions; you want to cut $10m? Propose cutting $25m, then meet them at $10m.

    This is the problem with people on the "right" side of these equations; you always start out asking for what you want, and end up getting nothing while the other side laughs all the way to the bank.

    Cutting back to 2009 levels IS doable. In fact, if you want to education the public, propose cutting back to 2005 levels, the same as our property values. The outrage will be massive and very vocal, but it WILL drive the conversation about how finances actually work. In fact it might be the ONLY way to drive that conversation.

    Sometimes you have to poke the nest very hard to get its attention; you just have to be ready for the reaction in order to win the ensuing battle.

  35. I should add that Pickerington cut $10m from its $100m budget (10%) before going back to the voters.

    See, it CAN be done.

  36. One has to be careful not to get caught up in school double-speak. For example, the Pickerington school district's own website has a page about their reduction plan which starts with "Since 2007, The Pickerington Local School District has reduced its budget by over $7 million."

    However, if you look at their Five Year Forecast, their spending actually increased $4.5m from FY08 to FY09, and $4.6m from FY09 to FY10.

    The same thing is true in the case of the claims made about Hilliard spending. There are claims of cuts, but these are cuts in planned spending increases - there has been no case of year to year spending decreasing in the past, and there is no version of the Five Year Forecast which shows year over year spending decreasing in the future.

    The trick is in the use of the word "budget," which most will interpret as meaning "spending." They may had reduced their future spending plans (or budget) by $10m, but it's not so clear that they've reduced year over year spending up to this point.

    I like the example I saw used by Jim Fedako up in Olentangy. He claims that he had originally intended to increase his personal spending by $1 trillion next year, but has since decided to eliminate it from his budget. Ego he saved $1 trillion....

  37. Precisely. We have been fed that doublespeak for so long now that the public cannot figure out that it isn't true! You only need to look at the pro-levy literature to see that - I really think those folks believe it. The sad part is that Brian Wilson, as a finance guy, should know better. Unless it is intentional. Nah, that can't be it!

  38. Paul - Any idea what time we can expect to see some meaningful results from the board of elections?

  39. Best place to get quickly updated voting results is the Franklin County Board of Elections web site. They have an option to select your issues of interest, and they do frequent updates of the scrolling results. I've got it going right now. Very interesting results. Log on, everyone!

  40. Kicking the can said .....
    The COLD DISH has been served !!
    Now as this train slows down, let's roll up our collective sleeves and get to work on a trustworthy solution. Now is the time for the so called transparency. Thanks for all your efforts Paul, I think coffee with the Board will be a place to facilitate a start.

  41. Paul, is there any template - another school district - that has had success in something like getting the union on board with a 1.8% CAGR type deal without a string of levy defeats? Or do we need to be trailblazers?

    With Little Miami, I wonder whether the union ever made serious concessions (I define as no step raises, no raises period for at least two years). If the union didn't, I find it sort of inspiring that voters somewhere didn't cry 'uncle'.

  42. All, Please take the time to rent DVD movie called "Waiting for Superman". It really hits home with us parents who have struggled with hilliard teachers not doing their jobs as well as others. In addition, it is very difficult for school boards to remove bad teachers.
    In addition, part of the campaign lies focus on frozen teacher salaries, this is not necessarily true when you look up your kids teachers' salaries for the past 5 yrs -
    Keep in mind, we need to work with the school board in reducing benefits and salaries to be more in-line with other professions. My household personally has seen reduction in benefits, pay cuts, & frozen salaries. Why are our teachers immune to this during the Great Recession?
    There is something wrong if 90% of our school budget is for salaries & benefits. Schools need to run more like a business. Looking forward to the coffee section.

  43. Thanks for the comment.

    Note that there is nothing inappropriate with having 90% of our spending go to compensation and benefits. A school district is a professional services organization, and like other professional services organizations (e.g. a CPA firm), nearly all of the costs are related to employee salaries and benefits.

    The issue is how much that total cost is in dollars, and how quickly it is growing.

    See you Saturday!

  44. Right now, I can't cite a specific district which has been able to develop a strategic plan in partnership with their unions. I'm not sure it is the perspective of the OEA that it's in their best interest to voluntarily align their demands to the economic state of the community.

    Rather it seems like their strategy is to keep driving compensation costs to the breaking point (ie to the point that the district is forced to pass an additional levy, or lay off teachers and cancel programming), otherwise it probably feels to them like they're leaving money on the table.

  45. just curious - how did all of you tell your focus children and middle school children that they will not have the same opportunities in school next year????

  46. @Anonymous: I have a child who'll lose out on 5th grade music next year. What I told her is that the district made a decision to cut that program, along with middle school athletics and gifted education so it could continue to give raises to all the remaining employees.

    Needless to say, she wasn't too happy about the district's decision.

    Dale McVey is playing a dangerous game. Frankly, he should be fired.

  47. I don't have kids in those situations, but if I did, I would tell them that the district cares more about how much they pay in compensation than they do about offering services to the students.

  48. I would say that because of poor financial planning, a failure to engage the community properly, tough economic times, and a poor priority on gifted education, that adjustments had to be made.

    The money is there to take care of gifted education with middle school gifted programs.
    The district, HEA, and board chose to fund
    multiple principals, no longer needed, university type sports administration classes,
    multiple coaches over and above univ.staffing levels, weight room personnel, all are deemed
    more important. I can go on but for time and space...................................

    It is about the priorities, and what would you say to those on fixed incomes, loss of jobs, layoffs, community members pay 500.00 per month for medical payments versus 50.00 for single employees.????????????????????

  49. Anon, Oh darn I forgot one, I would also engage with them about how schools are funded. That way they will have a true understanding, and not just the state took away our money. Teach them what a mill is, what a bond levy versus and operating levy is, how much it costs for a homeowner in taxes and relate that plus other taxes, everyday costs of living.

    I would also teach them to communicate and remind them of the selfish attitudes of
    "Work to the contract" !

  50. Rick said...

    "I would also teach them to communicate and remind them of the selfish attitudes of
    "Work to the contract" ! "

    What exactly would that accomplish Rick? Make them hate their teachers? Question their teachers motives? What exactly would that DO for those children? Surely it would give them the perception that ALL teachers were like that, even though it was only a few who were guilty.

    I am constantly baffled by your anger, and your willingness to subject your children (or others children) to this vitriolic criticism.

    What do you tell your kids?
    You tell them that the grown ups in the community and the grown ups that run the school disagreed on how much money the school needed. You BOTH take the blame, because that is the truth.

    My only hope is that ALL involved in the mess realize the err of their ways. Parents, teachers, and administrators all created this mess. To pin it on one specific group is ignorant at best, and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts at worst.


    musicman (Who NEVER would consider working to the rule)

  51. Musicman, it would be simply telling them the truth. The questions was asked, what do you tell them, and you just dont say because.

    Trust me, I am not the only one in the community concerned about "work to the contract" Lots of people question it, AND, they should.

    The levy failed, does this mean the end, NO

    There are other priorities that were selected.
    Do I wish they all could have been saved. YES
    There are things as noted that could be reduced and cut out and you would still have a gifted program.

    The vote was not close, yes part of it the economy, tax aversion generally, but there are issues that CAN be fixed IF the district and its employees are willing to LISTEN.

    Of note: How did the district and the levy campaign address those who dont have kids in school. They got a mailer. NO Public discussion, open question and answer. Noththin and a great 3 day notice to sit down with the board, 2 of whom wont be there. !

    The solution to ONE of the concerns is very simple. Keep the contract out of the classroom.
    Let ALL Parents, guardians, grandparents, citizens express their opinion without having a detremental effect on their families, students etc. Why is that so tough. A simple statement
    from the HEA and the District would suffice.
    Simply: " We dont support this, we expect our teachers and employees to leave the kids out of it." Why is that so tough. They have been asked and the silence is deafining.

    This must be a part of the dialogue along
    with some short term cost containment. A total look at our programming, adjustments for low participation in the short term, until economically things get better. People WILL support new levies, and positive educational spending. It is a good investment and no one has ever said no.

    As Paul has said, and taken the lead on, this is not a time to gloat over defeat, cry over loss. We must address the elephant in the room

    Scary, 1000 volunteers, and that is great support and they should be congratulated worked on this and got only 6,000 votes. Only 14,000 votes total.

    Lets understand that everyday people are struggling, lots of challenges economically.
    They dont need any reasons because of attitude
    lack of communication to say the least to say no.

    I am hopeful that many will come forward with some ideas beginning Saturday, and if not then in the short term. It cant be business as usual. Lets take down the barriers, like work to the contract, once and for all. Come up with
    specifics, not just no. I plan on doing it, I hope thousands more WILL.

  52. I think it's worth noting that, when one complains about teachers "working to the contract," one essentially admits that teachers are expected to do more than they are paid for. Which means that such an argument is predicated upon the assumption that all teachers are under-compensated.

    Beware the rhetorical slipper slope.