2012 operating levy is needed to replace funding losses

I’ve voted against my share of school levies.  When I felt the Milford school district was not spending responsibly, I spoke out, demanding accountability.

Now that I’m a school board member, this has not changed.  If I did not believe the district was spending its money appropriately, I would not hesitate to speak out publicly and vote against putting an operating levy on the ballot this November.

However, I do believe the district is responsible with its funds, and that this levy is necessary to retain an effective level of education.  I spend a lot of time looking at the district’s finances – in fact, other board members joke about how hard it is for the treasurer to satisfy my incessant questions and requests for analysis.  But because of this, I can say with confidence the district is doing all it can to reduce expenses and increase revenue, and we cannot meet current revenue reductions without severely slashing support.

If we are being so responsible, then why do we have such a great need for a levy?  Because of changes in how the state funds school districts, Milford’s revenue is decreasing $4.1 million, a 7.5% reduction in our budget. There is no other place to make up this loss – and if we cannot replace it from local funds, we must cut programs and services to balance the budget.

The district has been “living within our means” for the past four years – a huge accomplishment given where we were a few years ago.  Under Superintendent Dr. Farrell, Treasurer Debbie Caudle, and the Milford staff, we have cut $20+ million from the five-year forecast.  These are recurring expenses that will not be reinstated.

In addition, we’ve worked hard to find other revenue sources.  We renegotiated the Union Township TIF (tax increment financing) agreement, which adds $250,000/yr. to the budget, growing to $1.1million by 2018; we introduced Open Enrollment, which adds an additional $400,000/year and attracts motivated students from other districts; and we have aggressively pursued Catastrophic Reimbursement funds for Individual Education Plans, which adds $235,000/yr. we didn’t have before.

If these reductions had not been made, and if we had not searched out new revenue sources, the 2008 levy would not have lasted the four years promised, and this levy request would be for double digits, instead of 4.5 mills.

Any increase in taxes is a burden on the community.  Many are out of work, underemployed, or retired on a fixed income.  However, the school district, like many of us, is also feeling pressure.  Yet we must prepare our students effectively for a new, challenging future, to help our economy pull out of this slump and move forward.  Please know I would not be supporting this levy if I saw any other way.

I am creating a FAQ section on my blog regarding the levy (http://www.andreabrady.wordpress.com/2012-levy-questions).  Please send questions and I will post them.

Thank you for your support.

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2 Responses to “2012 operating levy is needed to replace funding losses”

  1. Save Clermont Schools Says:

    Can you explain the Catastrophic Reimbursement funds and how the UT TIF has changed? Are the funding changes in question just those provided through the regular state budgeting process good through next school year? Also, with the changes in the union contracts, does that mean that any school that changes contracts effective this minute requires schools to employ pay for performance models immediately instead of steps/columns? Can one assume the cuts are baseline cuts versus bottom line cuts? Enough questions for you? 🙂 Thanks again for all the info Andrea.

  2. andreabrady Says:

    Haha SCS, yeah, enough questions! 😛 Actually, keep ’em coming, thanks for asking! Here are the answers:

    * Catastrophic Reimbursement: The state provides an annual pool of money divided among all school districts that apply, to help reimburse for students for whom they have incurred significant Individual Educational Plan (IEP) costs. The cost for the student must exceed a certain amount, and then the funds are divided among the districts on a percentage basis. I can’t give you the specifics now, but I can get them if you like. There is no guarantee how much a district will get each year, b/c it depends on how much that district qualifies for and how much other districts qualify (and apply) for. Until Randy Seymour (treasurer before Debbie Caudle) came to Milford, the district did not bother to apply for these funds. The amount we receive has grown, but is probably now stable (but it could always decrease, depending on the amount of the pool & the applicants).

    * The details of the Union Township TIF negotiation are confidential, but basically, UT agreed the district should receive funds that were being used for the TIF earlier than previously agreed to. Gary Knepp opened the door with a UT Trustee, and Debbie Caudle, Randy Seymour & Bob Farrell negotiated the agreement.

    * The state funding changes are ongoing (at least for now – things change with each Governor change) and begin next year. We have no idea what else will change, and the state funding formula itself has not yet been determined.

    * The Budget Bill says that any district involved in Race to the Top (RttT) must move to pay-for-performance when their current contract is up; other districts have the option to do so – they are no longer bound to steps if they don’t want to use them.

    * Not sure what you mean, baseline vs. bottomline? The cuts are to recurring expenses; we did cut a few one-time expenses, but those were not included in the $20 million we are counting as “cuts” and basing our budgeting on.

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