District looks for savings & local income

The Milford school district has been working hard both to find savings in all areas of operations, and to identify new sources of revenue.  Both of these help the district operate with less money from outside sources, taking pressure off taxpayers.

Jeff Johnson, Operations Manager, shared a number of areas where the district has saved money and increased revenue.  Here is a summary of what he shared.

Operational Savings

  1. Construction:  Due to a favorable market and proper management, the district saved over $4 million in the recent construction of the high school addition.  This was bond money, and therefore could not be used for ongoing operations – but we were able to use it to complete more work that we otherwise would have had to pay for out of the General Fund.  This work includes:  a new roof on the high school; fixing the water mains; replacing panels on the outside of the high school; replacing windows; upgrading the HVAC and sprinkler systems; technology; fixing the Natatorium; adding air conditioning to the rest of the junior high.  In addition, we were able to complete much-needed additions to the junior high that otherwise would have required a separate bond issue.  We added 4 classrooms to the junior high, which help house the largest classes we have ever had there.
  2. Energy savings:  Despite adding over 100,000 square feet of space to the high school, our energy costs did not increase.  This is from a combination of upgraded, more efficient equipment; and proper management of how we purchase our utilities.  Last year, we were actually able to reduce our energy costs by appr. 1/3, although some of this was due to the mild winter and can’t be counted on.
  3. Health Insurance Consortium:  We joined a new consortium called the Southwest Ohio Organization of School Health (SWOOSH) which has helped ensure our health insurance premiums are stable.  All businesses are seeing health insurance costs skyrocket.  Our initial estimate, before joining the consortium, was a 32-33% increase for this year.  In the consortium, we had a 16% increase, which we reduced to 10% by adjusting our plan.  This is a $700,000 savings!  We are also looking at the possibility of starting a liability insurance consortium.
  4. Transportation:  We continually monitor routes to make sure buses are as full as can be while meeting the limiting factor for a specific route.  For instance, the limiting factor on a standard route to the high school is the capacity of the bus, while the limiting factor on a special education or private school route is the length of time on the bus (some special ed and private school routes have students on the bus for an hour, sometimes more).  We currently have 58 routes, which is down from 70 routes prior to reductions – a 17% decrease!
  5. Appropriations:  Many people think all managers spends their entire budget, to be sure that amount (at least) is available the following year.  We do not do that.  We encourage our department managers to spend less than their budget, and we’ve been successful for the last several years:  in 2011-12, we saved 3.65% ($2.1 million) from our budget; in 2010-11, we saved 4.46% ($2.6 million).  This money is not added back to the budget the next year; instead, we hold those new, lower budgets constant, and only add when specific items are needed for that year.
  6. Staffing:  We have reduced custodial and maintenance personnel, and increased the amount of responsibility each person has.  For instance, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) recommends custodians care for 25,800 square feet each, which is what our custodians do.  For maintenance, OSFC says each person should be responsible for 66,221 square feet; the state says 92,000 square feet.  And our people?  They each care for 168,900 square feet!  Grounds is similar:  OSFC says 15 acres each, state 42 acres, and we are at 135 acres per person.
  7. Paper/printing:  We are moving classrooms to Google docs, which not only saves paper, but which provides valuable collaboration opportunities.  We budget and track prints and copies by building, and we are encouraging personnel to use copiers when necessary, instead of printers, since this is significantly less expensive.
  8. Selling/scrapping old equipment:  We had a tremendous amount of “old” stuff hanging around.  Much of it was not usable, and we got rid of it.  Other pieces were usable but we didn’t need them – so we sold them.
  9. Consolidating Food Service and Maintenance at the Board Office:  We used to rent a separate building to house Food Service and Maintenance personnel.  However, by using all the available space at Milford South, the Board Office, we were able to eliminate that extra lease.
  10. Workman’s Comp:  This cost used to be fairly high for us, as our rating was high.  By managing it properly and making sure our people are safe in the first place (which is what everyone wants), we have been able to reduce our rating by 1/3, and our cost by almost half.  This has saved us almost $200,000 a year.
  11. Purchase supplies and services through competitive bidding:  This sounds like common sense, and it is – but it wasn’t being done before this administration came on board.  This has saved us in many ways.  One small example is in our paper products contract.  By bidding out, we were able to save $9,500/year AND get new paper towel dispensers with our Milford logo on them – for free!  In fact, the company actually paid us to install the free dispensers 🙂

 

Local Revenue Increases

  1. High participation fees:  We raised participation fees during our previous financial struggles, and we never reduced them.  Our high school students pay $175/sport and band; junior high pays $100/sport.  We have one of the highest participation fees in the area, outside of districts in financial crisis.
  2. Catastrophic Aide:  We now apply for reimbursement from the state for high special education costs.  This was done for the first time when Randy Seymour joined us as treasurer in 2008.  We currently receive $200-250,000/year from the state to help offset some of our special ed costs.
  3. Food Service Shared Services:  Our food service program is, as far as we know, the ONLY school food service program that not only covers all its direct costs, but contributes BACK to the General Fund to cover shared costs such as custodial, utility, administration, IT, etc.  We accomplish this by providing services to three public school districts and three private schools, and achieving significant efficiencies from this.  Food Service pays back almost $200,000 to the General Fund each year.
  4. Payroll Shared Services:  This year, we began overseeing the Winton Woods payroll.  We are the first district in the state to oversee the payroll of another district!  We hope to expand this opportunity to other districts in the future.  In addition, the Business Advisory Council is looking into opportunities to use shared services in other areas.
  5. Open Enrollment:  We are bringing in almost $500,000 this year from open enrollment students.  These are students who can fill “holes” in our class, costing us nothing more – but allowing us to increase our income significantly.
  6. Extended Day:  A few years ago, the General Fund had to support the Extended Day program, which lost money every year.  Now, the program not only supports itself, it also supports our legally-required preschool and pays back a little over $50,000 for its expenses to the General Fund.
  7. Partnerships:  We partner with groups such as the Athletic Boosters, MAST, Milford Basketball Association, and Touchdown Club to help us with items we would not otherwise be able to do.  For instance, the Athletic Boosters contributed $425,000 to the new athletic fields.  While some people see what we have as excessive, we got a huge deal by paying only half and being able to offer our students and community more athletic opportunities.  MAST (Milford Area Swim Team) has paid to put new doors on the pool; update the hospitality room; clean and seal tile; and paint.  The Basketball Association paid for a $50,000 renovation of the auxiliary gym at the high school.  And the Touchdown Club helped repair and upgrade the stadium concession stand, repair the press box, and pain the Robbins building.
  8. TIF Renegotiation:  We had several TIF (tax increment financing) agreements with Union Township.  One of these provided us with land for a new elementary and a new board office.  However, recognizing we had no need for these, we traded the land back for cash.  We are currently receiving several hundred thousand dollars a year from this renegotiation, which will grow to a little over $1 million by 2019.
  9. Milford Main:  Even though Milford Main is empty, we must keep the heat on and pay for basic maintenance to keep the building from falling into disrepair.  Until last year, this was costing us money from the General Fund.   However, we have now added tenants that allow us to do a little better than break even on Main’s expenses.  The Business Advisory Council is looking into how to market Main, and we may be able to turn this building into a source of revenue.
  10. Grants/Foundation/PTO-As/Businesses:  We have received a significant amount of money from these groups that help us offset costs.  The Foundation, which is only a few years old, has already provided over $50,000 in grants.  Local businesses such as 3M and International Paper are extremely generous.  And our parent groups provided over $200,000 in donations last year alone!
  11. Baseball field rental:  This past summer, we started renting out the baseball field to community teams.  We made enough last summer to cover upkeep and also $1,800 extra, which is being put back into upkeep.  This is a great way to provide athletic options for our students and community, yet share the cost of maintenance among all who enjoy them.
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