By ANDREW MELIN
Local guest columnist
— Since becoming superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, I have had the opportunity to familiarize myself with our schools, personnel, communities, academic initiatives and budget.
What I have learned in my short time in Greater Clark is our staff is doing great things daily on behalf of our students, our parents care a great deal about their children’s education and our community is committed to a high quality educational system.
Although much of my time has been spent on the academic and communication components of my position, I have also focused on fully understanding our financial status. Along the way, our Chief Financial Officer Tom Dykiel has been integral in determining the status of our revenues and our expenditures.
School funding is broken into two main components — a general fund and tax-supported funds. The general fund receives revenue from the state based upon student enrollment. For Greater Clark, our general fund budget is about $70 million, with 92 percent of the budget for salaries and benefits. Tax-supported funds receive revenue from local property taxes. In Greater Clark, we have five specific tax-supported funds with a total budget of about $30 million.
As we move forward in 2013, we know that we need to reduce general fund expenditures by approximately $2.5 million in order to achieve a balanced budget by the end of 2014. Achieving a balanced budget in 2013 is impossible because most of our employees have contracts that run over two calendar years. Therefore, expenditure reductions we are planning in 2013 will not take full effect until the 2014 calendar year.
Our goal is not only to achieve a balanced budget by the end of the 2014 calendar year, but also begin generating a cash balance in our general fund. State guidelines suggest school corporations maintain at least an 8 percent cash balance in their general fund. With a $70 million general fund budget, our cash balance should be approximately $5.6 million. It currently stands at about $1.6 million.
In order to reduce our general fund expenditures, we have been studying our staffing in all areas. We have, for example, completed an extensive review of our teacher staffing and will recommend a reduction of at least 26 teaching positions for next school year. Understanding the incredible contributions our teachers make to our students daily, the fact we have lost 650 students in total enrollment over the past six years necessitates the need to reduce our teaching staff.
In determining the total number of reductions, we used a class size in regular classes across our school corporation of 25:1. Our special education student to teacher ratio will be 18:1 in terms of our mild disabilities’ students and 8 to 10:1 in terms of our self-contained emotional and severe disability classrooms.
Our goal in reducing teaching positions is to do so through attrition; therefore, we have offered teachers a retirement incentive of $20,000 payable to their tax sheltered annuity if they retire by June 30, 2013. The retirement incentive has been accepted by 20 eligible teachers so far, which should reduce our general fund costs (salary and fringe benefits) by approximately $1.6 million.
We have other employees that are also eligible for the retirement incentive bringing the total general fund reduction to approximately $1.7 million. Over the last year, we have also reduced expenditures (salary and fringe benefits) in the general fund for administrators by $650,000 as follows: reduction in salary for the superintendent, chief financial officer salary charged to other funds and the elimination of a floating principal position, an assistant high school principal, a multicultural position, two maintenance supervisor positions and a payroll supervisor.
In addition to the above, we have also made other changes that will result in general fund savings. We have adjusted our garbage pickup which will save more than $20,000, lowered our long term disability insurance rate by $94,000 and made several other changes that will save another $10,000.
Another expenditure area under review is health care and, in fact, because of employees switching from name brand to generic prescriptions, pharmacy costs for the month of January have been reduced by about $20,000. We are also reducing expenditures in our tax-supported funds, including another $81,000 in administrative reductions. In total, we have reduced our administrative costs by approximately $730,000.
Once we finalize our total expenditure reductions, we will make a presentation at a public board meeting as well as communicate with our stakeholders through other media. Our goal is to maintain a high quality of service to our students, while also being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.
— Dr. Andrew Melin is superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools. Reach him by email at email@example.com