Saturday, July 9, 2011

Levy Step 3.0 - Selecting the Parameters

The last item on the agenda of last week's School Board meeting was a discussion of an operating levy in November. The discussion was inconclusive.

As I described earlier in "Four Knobs,"  a levy isn't just about the millage. I believe that the School Board must inform the community of its intentions in four dimensions:
  • The size of the levy.
  • How long the Board commits to waiting until the next levy is put on the ballot.
  • What rate of spending growth the levy is intended to fund.
  • How many dollars will be kept in reserve (ie in a 'rainy day' fund)
Unless the School Board discloses its intentions in regard to all four of these parameters, I believe that the public doesn't really know what it is 'buying' with a decision to increase property taxes.

At the Retreat two weeks ago, we had consensus that we want it to be three years or more until the community is again asked to raise its taxes. That's one parameter down, three to go.

For my own decision process, I selected the rate of spending growth as the next 'stake in the ground.'  In the current Five Year Forecast, the annual growth rate for the period FY13-FY15 is 4.8% after backing out the 'make work' numbers that were inserted in order to allow the certification of the new union agreements.

I think a 4.8% annual growth rate is too high for our current economic situation. In dollars, it is about $7.8m/yr, which is larger than any year-to-year increase in the last five years. In other words, while the new union contracts help a great deal by freezing costs over the next three years, this 4.8% annual growth rate puts us afterward right back on the same spending trajectory we were on before the new contracts.

I'd like to see our annual rate of expense growth reduced to about 3.5%. Note that I didn't say we should reduce spending by 3.5%. I said that we should restrict the rate of spending growth to about 3.5%. In dollars, that would add about $5.5 million dollar per year to our FY13 budget of $159 million.

... that's two of the four:  levy interval (3 years) and expense growth rate (3.5%).

Next, I believe we should have a goal of restoring our cash balance to at least 5% by the end of FY15. That won't be without cost. I estimate that it will require about 1.3 mills of our next levy just to get us back to a 5% cash balance by the end of FY15 (we'll run out of money in FY12 without a levy or more than $3 million in spending cuts). But we need to keep some cash reserve on hand to create 'wiggle-room' to deal with unexpected expenses. The current Board policy, set in 2006, is that this operating reserve will be kept at 10% of our annual operating expenses, which in FY11 would be about $16 million given our annual spending of $160 million. In recent years, this has been as low as 4.4% in FY05 and as high as 12.2% in FY07.

That's three of the four parameters, and once you have three, the fourth is determined. In this analysis, the fourth parameter is the levy size. My calculations show that the answer is 5.9 mills in Nov 2011 and around 5.9 mills again in 2014, the three year interval.

What if we don't want the next levy before 2015 - an interval of 4 years?   Keeping the spending rate and cash reserve target the same, that means we need would need a levy of at least 6.4 mills.  And there are many other scenarios we could talk about. Here are some I've been looking at in this process (warning: 3.5meg file).

Last September, the School Board was asked by the leadership of the Columbus Metropolitan Library System to pass a resolution in support of their new levy, which appeared on the November ballot as Issue 4. I voted against this resolution, which passed 3-1 (Dave Lundregan was absent due to a business conflict). My reason was that the Library system was asking for a levy large enough to fund their operations for a 10 year interval, and I didn't feel comfortable turning over that much money to them, and trusting their current and future management to use it as promised.

I have some of the same concerns in regard to our own school district. While few of us like the idea of having a levy issue on the ballot every 3 years, the reality is that - given any particular rate of spending growth - the longer you make the levy interval, the larger the levies have to be. And it also means that in the first years of a levy designed to last 4-5 years (or 10 as was the case with the Library levy), there will be large cash reserves in the early years, and it could be pretty tempting for future School Boards to dip into those funds, forcing an early return to the ballot.

So it seems to me that a three year interval strikes a reasonable balance. It's significantly less annoying and painful than every other year, but it's frequent enough to keep the levy size somewhat palatable. I also think it doesn't hurt that it forces the District leadership to stand before the people of the community and be held accountable for the way their money has been spent, if people care to ask the tough questions that is.

So here's the numbers I'd like to see for this levy:
  • Interval to the next levy: at least 3 years
  • Rate of Spending Growth: 3.5% per year (with a stable student population)
  • Cash Reserve Target: 5% by the end of FY15
  • Therefore:  Levy Size:  5.6 5.9 mills
Graphically, it looks like this:

click to enlarge
What happens next will depend on how important President Maggied feels it will be to have a unanimous vote on the levy resolutions. Ohio law requires that 4 of the 5 Board members must vote in favor of the resolutions necessary to submit a levy issue to the Board of Elections. So it is possible for a levy resolution to go forward without my vote.

However, I remain open to considering other combinations of the four parameters provided a meaningful reduction of the planned rate of spending growth is part of it.

As always, I appreciate your input.


  1. As usual, a well reasoned discussion,Paul. And as always, I appreciate your time and talent to present all of this information in a straightforward manner.

    But the big question now, is, for each $100,000 house valuation, how much monthly property tax increase will there be with a 5.6 mill levy?

  2. Obvious question - sorry for not including that.

    The answer is that a 5.9 mill levy equates to $181/yr per $100,000 of market value.

    However, we need to remember that it is predicted that the Country Auditor will be lowering the 'official' market value of Franklin County properties by about 8%. That means that for each $100,000 of current market value, a 5.9 mill levy will collect $167/yr.

    So if you have a home that has been valued at $250,000 up to now, a 5.9 mill levy would have collected an additional $453/yr. But with an 8% reduction in value - to $230,000 - the incremental tax would be $417/yr.

    Thanks for the question.

  3. Paul,

    Is the levy size that you would like to see in November - 5.6 mills or 5.9 mills? I see both referenced your most recent post.

  4. Whoops. Need to clean the glasses! It's 5.9 mills that works with the 3 other parameter values I listed. So:

    5.9 mills = $181/yr per $100,000

    So for a home valued at $250,000 today:
    5.9 mills = $453/yr

    But after being revalued to $230,000:
    5.9 mills = $417/yr

    Thanks for catching my mistake.

  5. 5.9 every 3 sounds reasonable to me.

    Let's clarify something on the revaluations, though. If everyone's valuations drop by the same percentage, won't all our property taxes stay the same?

  6. T... thanks for the feedback and question.

    The so-called "HB920" law says that once a levy is passed, the dollar amount it collects on your property remains the same, regardless of whether the valuations increase or decrease. So yes, there will no change in the amount of our current property taxes.

    In this case, we're talking about a new levy, which is applied at the full millage rate (less the rollbacks) on the valuation in effect when it passes.

    Since we just had a 6.9 mill levy on the ballot, I wanted to make the point that the 'price' of a mill is going to go down on existing homes. Said the other way, it will take more mills to raise a given dollar amount of new revenue.

  7. We should also synchronize levies and contracts. For example, the levy in Year 0 is intended to fund the contract in Years 1-3.

    It seems that we have traditionally done things the other way around, which causes our cash reserve problems.

  8. I'm not so sure there is a tradition in this case, as levy intervals used to be longer, like 4-5 years. The only reason the intervals are getting shorter is that this is the only way to keep the levy size down (remember the interrelationship of the 'four knobs'). The last one would have been two years without one-time Federal stimulus money.

    But I think I understand what you're saying. The
    idea would be that the size of the levy passed would determine the size of the 'raise package' that would be put in the next contract.

    The question is what would happen if the unions felt the Board, the Administration and the voters low-balled the levy size? The union members could demand higher wages anyway, and force the Board/Admin to lay off employees (reducing services) until the budget came back into balance. They would also have the nuclear option - to go on strike.

    This is the reason unions in the public sector aren't the same as unions in the private sector. In the public sector, the union members are employed by a government entity which exists by order of law. This means that there is no threat of the employer 'going out of business,' which is a dynamic that has caused powerful private sector unions like the UAW to recalibrate their expectations to economic reality.

    Public schools are different than private corporations in another important way: a private company typically collects its revenues from a broad set of customers, each of whom gets to make an individual decision relating value to price. The company is free to figure out a pricing strategy that works for it, and make tweaks as necessary to remain in business. Customers are free to take their business elsewhere at each buying opportunity.

    A school district sets its prices only through a levy process, which essentially allows the customers to vote on a price. And all it takes is 50%+1 of the voters who bother to show up to set the price for all. And if you are part of the 50%-1 who don't like the new price, it doesn't matter - you have to pay anyway. Your only other option is to move to another school district where you think the value/price relationship is better.

    Because of this, I believe the leaders of a public body have a duty to inform and engage the people of the community in the economic dialog, even when it seems like the public doesn't want to be engaged. As buyers, they don't have the same freedoms as they do when choosing where to buy groceries or gasoline. So we have to work doubly hard to engage everyone in the price-setting process if we want a healthy community.

  9. Yes, for that to work, everone would need to agree on X mills every Y years. Furthermore, each side must honor its pledge when levy / contract voting time comes.

    But I feel unusually optimistic about this.

    Although I was at first critical of the agreement, I'll give the teachers credit for taking the first step towards compromise.

    I think we owe them a fair shake in return. And 5.9 every 3 is very fair as a baseline. And if they decide to implement reforms to subsequent contracts, we could talk about awarding bonus millage.

  10. Paul, perhaps an explanation as to *why* you feel that 3.5% is an acceptable rate of growth might help.

  11. Fair question. Of course, it would be equally fair to ask the Superintendent and the other Board members why they might think a 4.8% growth rate is appropriate.

    The thing we need to keep is might is that virtually 100% of the funding growth is going to come out of the pockets of the local taxpayers in our school district - homeowners and business alike. And at least 90% of the money raised with a new levy is going to be applied to increasing the compensation and benefits to our employees.

    So in a very real way, this levy will transfer disposable income from the people of the community to the employees of the school district.

    The US Dept of Labor publishes regular reports about the Consumer Price Index. Here is the 2010 report, showing that the CPI rose 1.6% from 2009 to 2010. So one benchmark is that a 3.5% annual growth rate is a little more than 2x the rate of CPI growth.

    Another point of reference is the statistics the Dept of Labor publishes on wage growth. Examining the tables (Table 2) for 2009 and 2010 for our metro area, one sees that the average wage for all workers increased from $21.66/hr to $22.31/hr, or 3%. However, the wages for management workers declined 7%, business/finance workers declined 2%, computer/math workers declined 3%, and architecture/engineering workers declined nearly 13%. The big winner was the life/physical/social services categories, which increased over 8%.

    Primary/Secondary/Special Ed teacher compensation rose 0.3% - essentially flat at $36/hr.

    So with nearly all of our marginal spending being applied to comp and benefits, it seems to me that budgeting for 3.5% annual growth should provide for pretty reasonable salary increases.

    Note that there are a fair number of folks in our community who are demanding further "give-backs" from our employees, and who think even a 3.5% rate of increase is too much.

    So the trick is finding a number that will be supported sufficiently to get a levy passed. I don't like that 50%+1 of the voter who decide to show up will decide for everyone, but that's the way our public school funding works...

  12. You are assuming, without basis, that the rate of revenue growth is somehow tied to salaries and benefits. There is nothing to substantiate that belief. Hilliard has shown again and again that if it lacks the funds for desired salary increases, it simply cuts personnel (and programs). In other words, the expense curve per employee is constant. By curtailing revenue, you only influence the programming.

    If the board would promise, as a condition of passing the levy, not to increase compensation by more than x%/year, you might have a point, but as it is, all you are doing is increasing available revenue without changing behavior. Once the levy is granted, the union can demand, as they have in the past, huge increases.

  13. I don't disagree with your characterization of the way things have worked in the past. And I'm not sure things are going to change while the Board has its current composition.

    But we'll get a chance to test that when the 'cut list' begins to be developed in conjunction with the levy, regardless of what size it is. I for one will be looking for a lot more logic and detail this time around. Questions like "why was elementary strings put on the cut list, and how much do we spend on that program anyway?"

  14. unfortunately you have house prices falling ( i have lost approx 20000 on mine). You have people with stagnant pay or pay reductions and these 2 factors alone are not conducive for any millage increase at this time. I still say spending needs to be cut BEFORE any new millage is put on the ballet. Just like our own country, Hilliard is afraid to make any SERIOUS cuts and keep them. it is always we are cutting this then it is magically back. I for one do not like the wool thrown over my eyes. Time to take a serious look at all the classes and Downsize keeping in line with the rest of society. Also with all the new housing when is Hilliard again going to ask for money for a new school i see that in the next few years.

  15. As for new buildings, I can't see that happening soon at this point. I have a hard time imagining a bond issue would even pass in an economic climate like the one we're currently in. I don't think the district would even risk it, when the focus is on operating funds.

    Enrollment is increasing, but at nowhere near the rates that it did in the last decade. I am a consistently pro-levy person and I feel that the district needs to utilize the current buildings to the best of its abilities -- even if that means the ugly "R" word: redistricting.

  16. STJ: The district organized a "Student Housing Committee" last year to look at ways to better arrange our buildings to align with the "School 2020" initiative. Some of the thinking was pretty radical, such as an exploration into the notion of putting kindergarten kids in the high schools.

    There was an interesting dynamic regarding the high schools last time around, as you and I both observed. Several neighborhoods fought to keep their kids in Davidson, which has resulted in a Davidson having about 300 more kids than the other two high schools. There have even been some complaints about Weaver being overcrowded (100 more kids than Heritage), but the suggested solution is always to send someone else's kids to another middle/high.

    We don't seem to be very good at compromise in America these days.

  17. Paul,

    Indeed, Davidson is almost 400 students larger than Darby & Bradley. Weaver actually had closer to 150 more kids than Heritage.

    Unfortunately, I think the BOE missed a golden opportunity back in 2007 to deal with the perception of Davidson as the "school to be" (a perception that is misguided in my opinion) in Hilliard CSD, by transferring some of those neighborhoods to Darby or even Bradley. With the exception of a couple small apartment complexes and some undeveloped territory west of Alton-Darby Rd, Davidson's attendance zone pretty much stayed the same. Hence, we have crowded conditions at Davidson. And yes, I did hear a Weaver parent comment "well, why don't you just move some kids" at one of the Coffee with the Board gatherings. Wanna bet that she didn't offer her neighborhood to move to Heritage or Memorial?

    That is however, another discussion and I don't want to distract from the more important matter of funding our schools. So, hopefully we can move forward as a community to figure our way out of this challenge.

  18. To Billy Joel tune "Honesty"

    Transparency is such a lonely word,
    everyone is so unclear...
    Transparency is hardly ever done
    but mostly what I need from the school board.

  19. Good song, pipe dream as far as the local stuff you are expecting.

  20. Paul, I just stumbled on this blog and applaud this type of openness. Like Anonymous, I'm opposed to any levy because I've been experiencing pay freezes and layoffs in the private sector for 8 years now. Until the union offers up more than a 1 year pay freeze and a 12/12 pension ratio, I don't feel obligated to pass a levy. My 401k is a 6% match and it's considered one of the best programs in the private sector. Why would I support something twice what I get? Most companies match up to 3% so I'm puzzled why the unions negotiated 12%. Are employees retiring early? (more on that below).

    I'm not bull headed though. Maybe I have misconceptions about teacher compensation. Here are some things that I believe occur and reasons why I would not vote to pass a levy...

    1) Salary rates ($/hr) are slightly high. OK, this the least of my worries, an opinion, and very hard to debate however salaries seem to be on par with a those who have a technical degree who work year round. If you subtract 2 months off for teachers, the rate seems high.

    2) Employees regularly retire before 65. I suspect its in their late 50s but I would be curious to know what the average age really is.

    3) Employees double dip. They retire then get rehired in the same school district collecting two paychecks.

    I realize some of these things are common practices in different fields; military, police, and fire. I just can't support it in this economic climate. And, maybe this doesn't happen in Hilliard. If it doesn't, I would certainly look at a levy more positively.

  21. Mike: Glad you found the blog, and thanks for commenting.

    The levy discussion is only half of the picture. The other half is deciding what will appear on the "cut list" that follows the levy resolution by the Board.

    Most folks who say "no levy" aren't considering what that list might look like. We can be fairly sure that it won't say: "If the levy fails, we'll ask every employee take a pay cut and contribute more to their health insurance." Our teachers and support staff have already agreed to a 3 year base pay freeze, delayed step increases, and increased contribution to their health insurance. Their primary motivation might have been to mitigate the effects of SB5, should it be upheld (which isn't looking likely), but it does flatten our primary spending element for the next three years.

    No, the things on this cut list are going be about programming and services, and the normal strategy would be to have it include things which are highly valued, in order to garner votes in support of the levy. That's the reason sports, music, busing and gifted programming are typically on these lists, regardless of the school district.

    I believe we need to look a little harder for options for spending reductions. Maybe we should change the student:teacher ratio at all grade levels. Maybe we should trim our high school course catalog. Maybe we should offer fewer competitive sports and fewer musical ensembles.

    I don't like any of those choices, but if the will of the community is to hold funding where it is, then tough decisions have to be made.

    I hope you will continue to read how I'm thinking this stuff through, and also seek to learn the viewpoints of other Board members.

    The concrete will rapidly dry on most of this stuff. The resolution setting the levy size must be submitted to the County Auditor by Aug 10th, just 18 days from now, and it's a two-step process (see this article).

    The first resolution will be dealt with on Aug 1st, and the second on Aug 8th.

    The cut list will be developed soon thereafter.

  22. So my suspicions remain and were probably reinforced. The residents are looking deeper into these union contracts and reacting strongly because times are tough. What was negotiated in prosperous times was overlooked because the residents were happy. But when people start to lose their jobs and homes, we take a closer look to see who’s been in the cookie jar.

    We don’t have a budget shortfall because kids are expensive. We have a shortfall because benefits are out of line (with the private sector).

    I think more of the public sees this now. I believe the reason why the last levy failed is because the residents don’t agree with how the money is spent. Or, in many cases, they simply can’t afford it. Pay freezes, lack of promotions, and reducing pension matches from 14% to 12% won't fix the issue, real cuts are needed. I can’t imagine anyone would praise me for stopping service on a cell phone, cutting digital cable, or buying a more sensible car; its just common sense. Having the employees agree to contribute more in these down times is common sense. I don’t think anyone would consider this a great sacrifice. If they start talking about retirement to fix the long term issue, then I’ll applaud. The ball is not in our court now, as you insinuated, its still in theirs because benefits are still way out of alignment.

    And it saddens me to see the board always choose the “The kids will suffer” position. It’s your job to do what’s best for the kids and our school system. Those “tough choices” should also mean real push backs on entitlement and not just cutting programs or turning to the residents for a bail out. The residents can’t continue to bail out the district every 3 years. I can’t imagine that won’t hurt property values in the long run and make Hilliard a less desirable place to live.

  23. 10 years ago we knew we were going to lose significant funding from the state. No plan to
    address it. Questions asked, no answers. 10 years of ignoring the obvious financial challenges. It has caught up to us.

    Last levy, if we dont pass it it will be bare bones education. Yet, we still have course offerings that can be eliminated, pottery, a
    new sports adm. curriculum Multiple coaches
    Multiple weight room personnel, out state travel. As a former Div 1 athlete, we are not a university. Why do we have multiple asst coaches in all sports compared to most universities ? We spend 11,000 plus per student but yet were told repeatedly if the levy failed it would be bare bones. Just fact no fiction. The devil is in the details and an
    absolute failure to properly engage the community. Shows a total lack of respect, and
    for a levy campaign, the powers to be could not even schedule a simple Q & A session for those
    everyday citizens, seniors, grandparents, families with no children in school.
    It was a deliberate attempt to circumvent a majority of the electorate. So again its ante up and shut up, business as usual.

    The economic situation, as well put by Mike above is another reason. So do some class size adjustments, eliminate 50% of these supplemental contracts, curriculum, et all
    Many have taken a huge financial hit. They do not have the resources to fund additional taxes.

    and for the usual tripe about getting rid of
    everyones cable, and vacations most people dont take, then get rid of your weight room political
    type hires, and do some honest assessment.

    Question: If we spend 10,250 per student versus
    11,000 how is that bare bones, and how does that affect learning . This would save a ton of money and allow for a return of the same
    5% reserve.

    Time to adjust.

  24. Working in a consultant's capacity over the last few years, I have seen how several companies have handled reductions in workforce. Barring the case of total shutdowns, empirically it seems that most layoffs involve those performing in the bottom 1/3.

    By no means am I trying to ride my high horse, as I have been in the bottom third who got cut before. But I was able to be honest with myself about what happened and how I got there.

    The point of this being, that it seems like a lot of people are not approaching this conversation objectively.

  25. Kicking the can asks ....

    Can someone please tell me why a November Levy would pass ???

    Other than Paul, where is the transparent vail over the major issue which is Comp. and Benies ???

    Why is there not more public forum on the issue at hand ???

    Let's not kid ourselves here (pardon the pun), Has enough been said or done to even think a November Levy has a snowball chance ???

  26. Kicking.....

    Ummmmm the teachers agreed to freeze. I think you have a point about the levy's odds. But certainly much has changed.

  27. Anon @ 7/26 - 10:31 AM...

    The teacher and support staff have agreed to salary freezes and other concessions to the tune of $9.6 million. That should not be ignored. I think a lot of people recognize that. Will a levy be tough to pass? Sure, but I wouldn't say that it is DOA, either.

    BTW, if anonymous posters decided on a screen name, it would make it much easier to follow the conversations in the blog.

  28. STJ:

    While I am very appreciative of the deal signed by the teachers and support staff, let's not get caught in the semantic trap of calling a reduction in planned spending growth a "savings."

    The union contracts signed in 2008 were going to expire at the end of this year, and no one can say with certainty what that next deal might have looked like under other circumstances (ie if the May levy had passed, or had SB5 not been a factor).

    So it's one thing to say that the actual deal signed will cost $9.6m (or whatever) less than had a new 2011-2013 contract been signed with substantially the same terms as the 2008-2010 contract (e.g. 3% annual base pay increases).

    But it's not the same thing as saying that the 2011-2013 spending will be $9.6m less than the 2008-2010 spending.

    In fact, the Five Year Forecast shows the 2011-2013 spending at $35m more than the 2008-2010 spending, ignoring the placekeeper adjustments made to allow for the certification of the new contracts.

  29. Paul,

    Yes, indeed. I should have stated that more clearly in my post. (Sorry about that.) I am keenly aware that a reduction in the projected spending increase is not the same as saying the expenditures actually decreased in absolute terms. Thanks for the clarification.

  30. @STJ
    The teacher and support staff have agreed to salary freezes and other concessions to the tune of $9.6 million. That should not be ignored. I think a lot of people recognize that. Will a levy be tough to pass? Sure, but I wouldn't say that it is DOA, either.

    I can guarantee you that it's DOA if the millage is 6.9 mils, which is the only number the board and administration are considering, despite all the hard work and effort Paul is putting in.

    6.9 was crushed in May; now we have ~$10m in compensation concessions and they're still asking for 6.9 mils?


    How out of touch are these people?!?!

  31. Paul,

    If inflation is currently pegged at 1.6%, then spending should not increase by any more than 1.6%.

    Look, I'm sorry, but we're hurting out here and if the school district has its head so far in the sand it can't see that, then they're going to lose every single ballot issue from this point forward.

  32. Last point, which I hope Paul will allow:

    None of this will change unless there's change on the board. If anyone, ANYONE, out there who gets what needs to happen here wants to throw their hat into the ring for November's election, there's an organization out here willing to collect signatures for you (by Aug. 10) and help you get elected in November so we can fix this problem once and for all.

    Post comments on here and we'll find you. But we have very little time left before it's another 2 years of business as usual...

  33. Pegging your expense growth rate to inflation means maintaining your relative level of commitment to education. We could have the philisophical discussion about whether our current investment and its effectivenesss are adequate...

  34. Is Justin Gardner running again? Don Roberts??

  35. Yes, Justin is running again - several of us are gathering signatures for his nominating petition right now (send me an email if you want to sign). Don is not to my knowledge.

  36. M,

    It comes down to which option people are more willing to accept... a decreased millage but a shorter interval, or the same millage at a longer interval. Of course, as Paul has indicated, there is a certain percentage of voters who will never vote for a levy - regardless of the situation. To be fair, there are those who always vote 'yes' on school issues, too. (Unfortunately, there is usually a large percentage of eligible voters who don't even bother to vote.)


    Question for you. I was looking for the data on what the State of Ohio will provide to HCSD in terms of $$$$ in FY12 and FY13, as compared to FY11. Does the Five Year Forecast contain the most current figures? I've seen several different figures mentioned in the Dispatch over the course of the last several months and I wanted to make sure I was looking at the right numbers.

  37. @STJ

    I talked to a lot of people on the campaign in May. A 6.9mil levy cannot pass. The district could promise to make it last 10 years -- it still wouldn't pass.

    I don't believe any levy can pass right now. Things are very different right now, and for the district to have 4.8% growth rate is mind-bogglingly out of touch.


    If you seriously believe we need to be spending more money on our schools, I have some prime real estate in the Everglades to sell you...

  38. M,

    I'll spare you any reasoned, philosophical discussions. Maybe you could spare the hyperbole and cliche.

  39. @T

    What hyperbole? Maybe you should spend time researching the things that school districts across the country waste money on before claiming for a second that a lack of money is the problem.

    Why is it that private schools, on average, educate their kids for HALF THE COST of public schools, and produce far better results...

  40. It's like you are purporting to know everything about a matter that is infinitely complex...

    I'm not concerned with what schools "across the country". Let's stay focused on the HCSD.

    Reason #1 of 1,000,000- The parents....

  41. STJ: Hopefully I answered your question about the State funding cutback in today's article.

  42. "Why is it that private schools, on average, educate their kids for HALF THE COST of public schools, and produce far better results..."

    Are you kidding me? You are going to use this? Ever think of the clientele that is sent to a private school compared to those who attend public schools? Come on pal, get a grip. Comparing private and public education is apples and oranges. Poor comparison. Not surprising reading your comments though.

  43. @M
    "...for the district to have 4.8% growth rate is mind-bogglingly out of touch" I couldn't agree more. But no one here will understand your position or acknowledge you have a point so why go on? The union contract is unsustainable and we can only hope enough voters know it.

    I posted my questions here because I never claim to have all the answers and got, unfortunately, what I expected; misdirection. The unions won't budge, the voters will fail the next levy, and the kids will suffer. It’s really sad. The board is supposed to fight for the kids and the health of the school district but I'm not seeing that. I just see the residents being blamed for failed levies.

    I believe the union contracts are negotiated at the state level but, regardless, I've never heard one board member speak out about their struggle with cutting costs. They just propose a levy because it’s the easy way out. The system is really broken.

    Just vote them out and write to Gov Kasich. That's all we can do. As long as the Board and the unions are on the same page (to put it politely), nothing will change.

  44. @T and @Anonymous

    Both of you miss the point: Private Sector schools prove that more money isn't the solution. We've been throwing money at the problem of Public Schools for decades now, and it isn't working.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    Do you think a 10% reduction in spending would result in a 10% reduction in the quality of the education our kids receive? Of course not. So why do you think the opposite is true?

    T - You are right about one thing; it is complex. But your comment also indicates that you think our kids don't get a good education. They do. Which is another reason why I can't fathom why you think more money is the solution. Solution to what exactly?

    Do we spend the money wisely? No. Could we reduce in some areas where we overspend (for no additional gain) and divert that money to other areas where we underspend and have room to gain? Of course.

    But for THAT to happen, the district will need to start sharing details about the finances...

  45. Let's remember that all of this is a complex of negotiations - and there is no singular "right answer" that everyone will agree to in regard to any of them.

    I'll suggest that the first negotiation was that between the Board and the unions which led to the new 3 year agreements.

    The next one will happen tonight: the one regarding the levy size that will be nominated to the community.

    The next one is the determination of the cut list. This negotiation hasn't been very public in the past, but I believe it needs to be this time. The last one was sure handled poorly, and I take my share of blame for that.

    And finally, the public will get to debate the levy in the context of the the cut list, and come to its decision in November.