October 13, 2011
Buckeye Valley Superintendent Jamie Grube knows it’s never popular to ask voters for more money, and especially not now. But he thinks that if people hear all the facts, they’ll be inclined to support the school district.
While school administration has tried to be fiscally conservative, there’s only so far that can go, Grube said. Today, BV receives $1 million less in state funding compared to 10 years ago, and officials expect to lose $400,000 more this year in state tangible personal property tax revenues.
“I guess it’s a shrinking pool of resources. And while we’ve tried to decrease our expenditures, we’ve got to where any additional cuts we make will have a huge impact on students,” Grube said.
Buckeye Valley voters will decide this Nov. 8 whether to approve a 1/2 percent income tax increase. The current 1 percent income tax has been in place since 1992.
If voters pass the tax hike, a Buckeye Valley household earning $60,000 a year will pay an additional $300 in annual taxes, while bringing in $2.3 million a year for BV. If the economy improves, the income tax will generate more money for the school system.
School administration has tried to do more with less — and has been successful, Grube said. From an academic standpoint, Buckeye Valley has been strong, receiving an A+ rating on its state report card last year, and an A rating this year.
Meanwhile, the school board voted last year to eliminate 28 full-time positions, including 16 teachers and one administrator. Some were laid off, while some who retired were not replaced. Overall, the district has reduced expenditures by $1.8 million over the past three years, administrators say.
The school district recently switched to a health care plan that will cost the district less while giving employees higher out-of-pocket costs — that means the district’s healthcare costs will be flat next year, rather than increasing by 30 percent, as had been projected without the change.
But school administration doesn’t want to make any more cuts without having the community to weigh in first, Grube said.
The extra money would allow the school district to bring back programs it has cut, including making a music teacher position full-time again, retaining a school resource officer beyond second semester this year and the restoration of library staff and gifted student teachers.
School board member Tom Kaelber and school board candidate Joe Roden have criticized the school board for not taking more steps to reduce administrative costs. Currently, the school district covers school administrators’ entire retirement contributions; by eliminating that contribution along with two administrative positions, Kaelber told the Gazette the school would save between $400,000 and $500,000.
Kaelber also said administrators were not “sharing the sacrifice” that teachers had made. But Grube said on a percentage basis, the number of administrative positions cut are comparable to teacher cuts.
As part of the $1.8 million in cuts, the school board eliminated a student services coordinator and reduced hours for two other administrators. Those cuts translate to about a 10 percent reduction of overall administrative staffing (not including the treasurer and superintendent), Grube said in an email.
When counting teaching positions that have been brought back due to increased enrollment, BV has cut its teaching staff by about 10 percent, too, according to Grube.
And when compared to other similar school districts, Buckeye Valley had more teachers and less administrators to start with, Grube said.
“Therefore, I would argue that we do commit our resources to direct instruction and have fewer options to reduce administratively (because we are already staffed leaner),” Grube said.
And what if the levy doesn’t pass?
Grube said school administrators have not identified a specific list of programs that would be cut, or a specific dollar amount that would have to be reduced.
“We have not discussed specific cuts if the levy fails because we don’t want to frame this in a negative, threatening way,” Grube said.
But the school board will likely discuss a backup plan at its meeting next month. What could be on the table? Reductions in busing services, extracurricular activities and elective classes, Grube said.
“When push comes to shove, there are things that we have to do. But there are other things that while we think they enhance the educational experience, they aren’t required, core areas,” Grube said.