Friday, August 23, 2013

Supplemental Material for the August 26, 2013 School Board Meeting

Here are the supplemental materials provided in preparation for the regular meeting of the School Board, to be held Monday August 26, 2013 at 7pm, in the ILC Annex (formerly known as the Central Office Annex).

You might be interested in the opening day enrollment numbers. We start this year with 15,882 students (including JVS students), up slightly from the 15,783 we had last year. In 2011, the opening day number was 15,758. This is a far cry from the explosive growth we had a decade ago, but residential development is starting to pick up again. The earthmoving equipment is onsite and active for the new Heritage Preserve development on Alton-Darby Rd, planned for 687 single-family and multi-family dwellings, with the potential for several hundred new kids in the schools.

On the financial side, we have the Monthly Financial Report for July to approve, but the more important item is the Permanent Appropriations Resolution, a piece of legislation required by state law. It has two purposes: 1) it is the way the Board of Education authorizes the Administration to spend money; and, 2) it authorizes other government authorities, such as the Franklin County Treasurer, to disburse to us the monies that have been collected on our behalf, such as property taxes.

If you take the time to do so - and I have - you can reconcile the numbers in the Appropriations Resolution with the detail disclosed in the FY14 Budget provided by Treasurer. I have always believed that this process of inspecting and approving the Permanent Appropriations Resolution and the supporting Budget is one of the most important duties of the School Board.

I've had a detailed dialog with the Treasurer about several items of interest I found in the Budget, and am satisfied with his answers. Because 86% of our General Fund spending is for Compensation and Benefits, a key number to pay attention to is the change in the Full-Time-Equivalent headcount.

For FY14 (which we are already in), the FTE headcount is projected to be 1,646, compared to 1,633 in FY13 and 1,644 in FY12. The only change of notice is that the FY14 budget has 18 fewer Regular Education teachers, and 11 more Special Education teachers. While I'm interested in this reallocation of resources, the personnel budget as a whole looks appropriate given the relatively flat enrollment numbers.

While the General Fund budget seems reasonable, I'm quite concerned about the Capital Improvement Plan, shown on page 102 of the Budget document.

In 2006, the community voted to enact a 2 mill Permanent Improvements Levy, which generates $4.6 million per year for Capital Improvement - and that money is being spent. However, our Operations Department believes we need to be spending $4.5 million more for at least the next four years, starting next year. This is equivalent to another 2 mills of property taxes ($70/yr for each $100,000 of value).

While the FY14 Capital Improvement plan is covered by the current revenue stream, the FY15-FY18 Capital Improvements plan submitted is a substantial change from the FY13 Budget, and needs to be discussed in depth in the near future.

Lastly, you are probably aware of that the new State Report Card is out. We've been justifiably proud as a community to have earned the highest rating possible - "Excellent with Distinction" - for several years running. Last year, we were #1 in the State of Ohio in terms of the Value Added category.

The new Report Card uses an A to F rating system. It would have been nice to have received all As, but no school district in Ohio received all As. I'm not ready to render an opinion about the new Report Card system yet, but from an engineering perspective, it sounds like we might have a measurement instrument that is better calibrated to the range of data.

The old report card was like the gas gauge in most of our cars - it stays on FULL for a good while after you fill up, even though you know gas has been consumed. With the old Report Card, so many districts were awarded Excellent or Excellent with Distinction ratings that it obscured where we stacked up within that large group.

So if the new Report Card accurately measures what it says it does - and smarter people than me are no doubt going to figure that out - then we should be able to see more clearly where we're doing well, and where we need to do some work.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to read Dr. Marschhausen's comments on the new Report Card.


  1. The new system is a bit of mixed bag, in my opinion. Might feel differently once I have had a chance to sort it out. Even though the stats on the ACT, SAT and AP Tests don't factor into the HS grades, I am glad to see that data posted in the report card. In many ways, I think those results are just as important as the OGT results.

    1. I agree. Those standardized tests scores (ACT, SAT, AP) are the payoff, while the rest of the data are the progress checks. And it's not just what the average score is for ACT-takers, it's the percentage of the kids who take the ACT.

    2. Agree with your response. Interestingly, when I go to the ODE website, I don't see the specifics on the report card, but the Dispatch database link seems to have much more detail at this point.

      Also -- overall -- it seems like the three high schools perform pretty similarly, with each of the schools excelling in spots (Bradley - OGT, Darby - AP test scores, Davidson - ACT/SAT participation) and showing room for improvement in other spots (Darby/Davidson - OGT Gap Closing, Bradley - AP passage rate).

      I know Davidson is still perceived by many as "the" high school of choice here in Hilliard, but Bradley and Darby certainly seem to be holding their own.

    3. I've seen three different presentations of the data at this point. I think the ODE has had to put up an abridged version of the data because of the overwhelming demand.

  2. Paul,

    In my opinion the flavor of the 3 posts about the report card have changed. In the past it was pure propaganda, now more fact and review. Much improved.

    I must say that after 35 years in business I always find the school budget a little hard to get my hands around, however Brian W. always help a great deal. Thanks for rising to the task of doing your job.

    Did we ever have a total cost of McVey building. I have asked several times what was the cost including using our labor. What activities and resources were allocated to this project.

    What was not done when this was being done!


    1. Your point is well taken. Nothing is free - the money spent on the ILC was money that could not be spent on something else - like all these capital improvement projects in the budget.

  3. What budget did the ILC money come from. What else in that same catagory were funds shifted from to both pay for materials and what was the labor shifted from. WHAT DID IT COST? I see it was named McVey, did he pay for it. It is the practice to name buildings after those who paid for it (Blackwell, The Shot/Value City, Nationwide!!!)

  4. The money for the ILC came from the pay freeze the classified employees have been under for the last 4yrs, while administration continued to receive raises. There are now classified employees that qualify for government assistance do to the pay freezes and hours being cut - that is how it was paid for!

  5. We still are unable to provide a cost for the McVey center. WOW

    1. Just received the numbers from Treasurer Brian Wilson:

      ILC rebuild: $456,497
      SSF rebuild: $537,994 (for Admin move)

      These figures do not count the internal cost of labor.

  6. Thanks for getting the numbers. I hope the new super has a different approach. I remember asking Lisa W about the cost over a year ago, I was told the board was watching the cost. Only now we learn dales little project cost more than $1,000,000. With the high labor costs who knows it could be $2m+. Where did we vote to spend that kind of money for a learning center? Not that it is not a great idea, and I think it is. Why was the cost so hidden and secret. Why did he not come to the board and say I want to spend More than a million on the concept. Why did the board not ask the cost in public?

    Now we are going to vote the same board to serve again, so I must be the only person who wants to know costs before building. I guess that is why we have a large school site that is not being used.

    Talk all we want about what account the money came from and what it could be used for. When we learn the true numbers, what did the workers not do.

    1. The executive leadership of the school district has been granted the authority to spend significant amounts of money without gaining prior permission of the school board. For example, over the summer you could observe a fair chunk of change being spent repairing a number of roofs and parking lots. There was no detailed discussion of these expenditures by the whole Board - the Building and Ground committee dealt with this.

      The aggregate spending is approved via the General Appropriations resolution, which the Board discussed and passed at our last meeting.

      Members of the Board were briefed on the plans for the ILC and the CO move, with the understanding that the cost could be absorbed by the Permanent Improvements budget. Yet, the new budget (p.102) presented in conjunction with the Permanent Appropriations Resolution has a request for a doubling of the Permanent Improvements spending for at least the next four years. Those things seem incongruent, and we need to have a lot more conversation about it.

  7. Paul,

    I like the ILC concept, and would have voted yes if it was included in the last permanent improvement levy. I quess I do not understand the process and funding.

    Were were told of all the things that would fall apart and how kids were in the hallways in order to pass the levy to build the last schools. Was that the last permanent improvement levy that included Bradley?

    Were you comfortable with the "could be absorbed" approach. Several months after the process started then board president Lisa told me she did not know the cost but they were looking at it.

    I understand the letting leadership manage the district, as it is what we pay them to do! However $1M is a large some in any organization, other than day to day operations that size of a spend would require sign offs and in many cases board approval. I was concerned from the start as the number was never made public.

    When the next permanent improvements levy comes to the voters will there been "fat" to cover even more activity that can be absorbed. I will demand a list of what that levy is for. The man hours to cover CO/ILC could range from $1m-$2m as a ratio to materials to labor. So when we decided to absorb the cost, what items were taken off the to do list. Do we have so much extra workers that they had nothing else to do?

    1. Yes, I was comfortable with the "could be absorbed" approach. If there's a next time, I'll be asking for a budget in advance.

      The Permanent Improvements levy is separate from the bond levy that was used to finance the construction of Bradley and Washington. While bond levies have a finite life (ie they get paid off), the Permanent Improvement levy is permanent also in the sense that it will never go away.

      And yes, I've already said that before I give my approval to a doubling of the permanent improvement spending - regardless of how it is financed - I'd like to see a detailed schedule and budget.

      Nothing was taken off the to-do list - the explanation to us was that some things were merely delayed. However, I think the budget request for additional Permanent Improvements money includes a catch up component.

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