The key is the district’s Five-Year Financial Forecast (available on the district website). The costs projected for the next four years assume average annual salary increases of close to 6%. Keep in mind that the salary scale is comprised of three components; negotiated increase, step increase, and education increase. The district only likes to report its negotiated increase since that is always a lower number than all three together. Though all three numbers are reported in the forecast for you to read.
In addition, the forecast assumes that the staff contribution percentage for their healthcare will not increase.
So the proposed cuts hit everything except staff salary and benefits, which are projected to increase at a rate that is double what the private sector can expect.
The ratio of students to teacher continues to decline (you can see references to that in the current forecast, but you have to get prior year forecasts to see what that ratio used to be).This decline results in a great increase in costs. A slight increase in this ratio ( say .5 students per teacher) would save a large amount of money, without any impact to students.
The state is in the process of correcting an $8 billion budget hole. There will be big changes to the state school funding system that will not be known until after the levy (the state budget will likely not be signed until close to the June 30 deadline).
A levy in November has the same revenue impact as a levy in May, since taxes are collected in arrears (all new taxes passed in 2011 are collected in 2012). The district could implement additional cost savings for next year (by bringing salaries and benefits in line with the private sector, and slightly increasing the student/teacher ratio to where it was just a few years ago), wait until the state budget is passed, and consider a November levy (I don’t think that is needed either).
The district is not being honest when it states that it must enact cuts. That is simply not true. Given its current forecast, all the district needs to state is that it plans to pass a levy on or before the spring election of 2012. In the spring of 2012, the district would need to have a cut plan (assuming it did not implement any cost savings – salaries, benefits, etc.) in place since contracts are dependent on sufficient resources for school year 2013 (starting July 1, 2012).
But a cut plan, and a threat to enact those cuts, are not required. When I served, we never made such threats. The cuts were proposed only when needed.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A resident asked for my thoughts on the upcoming levy. Here they are: