Note: The following column is by Greg Denecker, superintendent of Bluffton schools. The column is part of the current school newsletter. A complete copy of the newsletter is an attachment at the bottom of this article.
I want to bring everyone up-to-date on the plans to deal with a shortage of revenue from fiscal year 2011. The new state budget proposal (which will probably pass close to current projections) will perpetuate a significant decrease in revenue for our district over the next two years.
Starting July 1, 2011, we will lose federal government American Reinvestment and Recovery Act monies, which previously totaled $129,197. We will also sustain an additional loss of $262,341 in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds from the federal government.
The State of Ohio is also rescinding $150,295 in Tangible Personal Property (an inventory tax paid by businesses that was phased out many years ago).
School districts had thought that Tangible Personal Property monies would be replaced by the Commercial Activity Tax, but the State, in this proposal, will send only about 50% to the schools from the tax; this is a change from the current rate of over 70% coming to schools today.
On the plus side, the district will see an increase in State Foundation money of $138,590. However, this increase does not come close to the over $540,000 we are losing.
Therefore our net loss for next year is over $400,000. The April 3, 2011, Lima News article on school funding did not take into account the loss of federal money in its front-page table.
Below is an outline of the proposed state budget changes for fiscal year '12 and '13 for Bluffton Exempted Village Schools.
FY '12 FY '13
American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -$129,197
State Fiscal Stabilization Fund -$262,341
Tangible Personal Property -$150,295 -$150,295
State Foundation $138,590 $88,038
Education Jobs -$115,744
Total Loss -$403,243 -$178,001
We have made a number of plans and adjustments in an effort to cope with what is a substantial loss to our budget.
First, we will be utilizing current staff in new positions in order to refrain from hiring additional staff to fill the five positions that are being vacated this year due to retirements.
Nancy Armour and Susan Gratz are retiring from the middle school. Their teaching duties will be covered in the following manner:
Jackie Bourassa and Cindy Lee will teach all the social studies courses in the middle school; Natalie Armstrong and Robin Ault will teach all of the middle school language arts.
At the elementary level, Susan Reiss, a third grade teacher, and Bonnie Hammond, a Title One Reading teacher, will not be returning next year due to retirements.
In addition, the fifth-grade class for next year (which is currently in 3 sections in fourth grade) will continue to have three sections. Total enrollment for this class is 74 students. Since the fifth grade currently has four teachers (and now will need only three), 5th-grade teacher, Ann Kingsley will move to third grade to fill Mrs. Reiss's position.
Mrs. Kingsley currently teaches social studies-a subject that students are not tested on in academic achievement tests during fifth grade.
Amanda Veidt will move from MS physical education and HS health to Title One Reading. Dennis Lee, along with various MS teachers, will cover the MS physical education classes. Karen Foltz will teach HS health and a course in MS health in addition to her duties as MS guidance counselor.
Middle School Principal Dean Giesige will take over as the testing coordinator for the district, a position that was previously held by Mrs. Foltz. Mardy Herr, the current technology coordinator for the district, will teach the accounting courses left vacant by Jim Raabe's retirement this year. Mr. Raabe's role as Athletic Director will be filled by current staff; an announcement on this position will come soon.
In order to facilitate these numerous adjustments, the middle school and high school schedules will need to run on a similar timetable; that way staff can be utilized across buildings. Small adjustments may occur to the plan above, but this is where we envision our staffing for next year.
Over the past few years, we have worked to absorb positions whenever possible in order to save money. Specifically, five positions will be absorbed this year and three additional teaching positions were not filled in recent years. We also have not filled positions for one aide and have three fewer bus drivers than we did three years ago. This represents a total savings per year of around $700,000.
While there are many changes listed above, I believe our staff will do an outstanding job in their new roles. Change is not always easy, but our district and staff are strong. We will continue to provide our students with an excellent education.
Our cost per pupil is over $2,000 less than state average, and we will continue to be fiscally responsible to the community. Our goal as a district is to stay off the ballot for new money for as long as possible; these changes will help us toward that goal.
You will see various permanent improvement projects occurring this summer. Please remember that these improvements are being paid for out of the Permanent Improvement Fund. This fund is being used to update and maintain our facilities.
Permanent Improvement Funds can only be used for improvements that will last five years or more. The money cannot be used for salaries or fringe benefits for employees. In the August Newsletter, same as in years past, we will list each of the projects that are completed and the cost of each of the projects.
I would like to thank each retiring staff member for his/her many years of excellent service to the Bluffton schools and students.
Please call or stop in if you have any questions regarding the information in this letter. As I have stated before, we have fantastic students, staff, and parents, as well as a supportive community. Together, we will face the current economic challenges while continuing to uphold our commitment to excellence in education.
Greg Denecker, Superintendent