On April 6, 2019 we sent our district families information about necessary staff reductions for the 2019-20 school year. Since, the Board, Superintendent, and Treasurer have received several questions. We have outlined those questions and answers below. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us via email.
1. Does the ending of the current teacher contract in June and negotiations for new contract have anything to do with the RIF? The current contract negotiations will likely impact the cost of staffing for next school year and beyond. The cost of staffing impacts the yearly operational budget. The RIFs are done to reduce the yearly operating budget. The ending of the current teacher contract is interconnected to the overall costs of the district, but is not the reason for the RIFs.
2. Is union representation required when RIF’s occur? No, it is not required. The superintendent met individually with the impacted staff member and his/her building principal. Had the individual members requested association representation, they certainly could have also been present. The superintendent met with association presidents prior to meeting with the individuals.
3. How much will these reductions save the district? The reductions will save the district $695,262 next year, $888,221 in the 2020-21 school year, and $975,732 in the 2021-22 school year. Without retirements over the next few years, the deficit increases dramatically year after year. The more the deficit increases, the larger the levy millage would need to be in November 2020, making it both more difficult to pass the new money levy and less likely that we would be able to stretch the new dollars, if approved, for five years or more.
4. How will the RIF impact class sizes? Here is how class sizes in grades K-5 are anticipated to look: (Based on current enrollments)
Class sizes in grades 6-12 cannot be calculated or reported in the same way as grades KDG-5. They are dependent upon number of elective offerings, course requests, and a more complex master schedule. Class counts are reviewed by administration in the spring of each year and staffing adjustments are made when class sizes are too low or too high. Attempts are made to average around 25 students per class.
5. Has the amount of money going to charter schools (called “community” schools in Ohio) increased with people leaving our district? The number of Fairview Park students who attend community schools fluctuates from year to year. We actually saw a decline in the number of students attending community schools this past school year. See the listing below.
Is there a gap between the state funding per student and the amount we give to the charter schools per student? Yes, district receives $1,413 per student. Unfortunately, the state takes out a minimum of $6,020 out of the district funding for each student who attends a community school. (More is taken out if the student is a special needs student. Some of them are.)The following illustrates the amount that the Ohio Department of Education takes out of the district funding for students attending community schools:
- 2013-2014: $270,454.10 (40.09 students)
- 2013-2014: $337,294.69 (48.14 students)
- 2015-2016: $354,006.74 (51 students)
- 2016-2017: $265,382.45 (41.81 students)
- 2017-2018: $288,761.45 (43.12 students)
2018-2019: $246,055.06 (38.21 students)
6. Are there any anticipated retirements at the end of this 2018-2019 school year? Two individuals (one elementary school secretary and one educational aide) have submitted formal letters stating they are retiring at the end of this school year. Both positions will be replaced. We’ve not heard from any other individuals at this time who are considering retiring at the end of this school year.
7. What has the enrollment been over the years in the district and what are the projected numbers for the 2019-2020 school year? Over the past 10 years, enrollments have fluctuated (as they often do in communities like ours) and the overall change in the past 10 years has been a decline of only 33 students across grades K-12. However, we’ve seen recent dips in enrollment in the past few years.Our current kindergarten enrollment is 112 (as of 4/10/2019) and we anticipate a maximum of about 125 or so based on past trends (it changes day to day). Our grade level enrollments are projected by anticipating our grades moving up. For example, we anticipate our 112 1st graders will result in a 2nd grade of approximately the same size for next school year. We commonly see a few withdrawals and a few enrollments in various grades between now and the start of the next school year, but there is rarely a significant spike or drop in a single grade level.
(My apologies, I inaccurately reported the 1-5 drop in enrollment at Gilles-Sweet as only 35 students in my April 6, 2019 letter to Fairview Park Families. The correct number is 41 as seen here. This is the information provided by Patty Yager, FPCS EMIS Coordinator, who manages information reporting to the Ohio Department of Education. – B.Wagner)
8. Why is our enrollment dropping? District enrollments ebb and flow from year to year with many factors often contributing to changes. The data from the tables above are what is reported from the Ohio Department of Education. The district reviews enrollments and withdrawals on an annual basis and will be developing an exit survey that parents can complete on withdrawal to provide feedback regarding the service and satisfaction during their experience with the Fairview Park City Schools.
9. The community was told that the district had a large surplus of funds. Where did this deficit come from? There is a difference between deficit spending and a fund balance. Deficit spending is spending beyond your income. The fund balance is more like your savings account. School districts and school board members, like every household, know that deficit spending (spending beyond your budget) is a red flag that must be addressed to avoid a host of negative consequences. For a school district this includes reduced bond ratings, more expensive borrowing costs, and eventually, the possibility of a Fiscal Watch or Fiscal Emergency rating from the Ohio Dept. of Education. In 2016, the District used a portion of our fund balance to secure millions of dollars of additional funds via COPS financing, an innovative financing option which allowed the district to utilize its own fund balance as security for the loan, which resulted in a lower levy millage to residents to accomplish the facilities renovations.We do have a safety net of a healthy reserve fund, but it is dedicated to the construction/renovation project payments for the next 28 years. This reserve fund was created over the last decade for the purpose of long overdue facilities renovations. All dollars pulled from it will need to be replaced over time. The monies in this fund are invested and earns interest that helps buffer the fund.This was highlighted during the 2016 levy. The district promised the community that operating funds (the fund balance) would be committed to the project, currently totaling $15,790,805 (combined principal and interest over the next 28 years.)
The 5-year forecast is publicly shared at least twice a year via the district’s BoardDocs site, showing the operational deficits. It is publicly reviewed annually at the October and May board meetings. This past December, it was presented again with the revisions based on the passage of Issue 5. At the past four State of the Community events, including the latest on April 3, 2019, Dr. Wagner addressed the need for the district to place a new operation levy on the ballot in 2020. It is typical for districts to operate with a deficit for several years leading up to a levy, otherwise there would be no need to place new money requests on the ballot.
10. Why wasn’t the deficit or the RIFs mentioned at the State of the Community event? As of the April 13th State of the Community event, the Superintendent hadn’t yet met with the affected employees or the union leadership regarding the specific list of names. Although the union presidents were previously informed that RIFs would be occurring, they did not know the specific individuals at that time. A generic statement about the budget deficit and staff reductions at the State of the Community would have caused undue panic and concern among the teaching and support staff in the days before individual meetings were scheduled.The district operational deficit has been shared in the five-year forecast presentations every October and May for the past three years at public Board meetings. In fact, it was shared again at the December 2018 board meeting as the Treasurer revised the figures to include the passage of Issue 5.At the State of the Community, the Superintendent stated, “This past November, the community passed Issue 5, the district’s one and only renewal levy. It passed, allowing us to extend our current operating budget to 2020. And whereas we are immensely grateful for the passage of Issue 5, it is very important to note that it was NOT an increase in revenue for the district. Because of the way property taxes work in Ohio, that renewal levy only provides the same amount of funding each year that it did back in 2006 when it was first approved. And unfortunately, inflation has grown by 25.4% since then. We’ve stretched that 5 year promise for over 13 years, but I’m afraid we just can’t stretch it much longer. Over the years, we’ve worked hard to earn your trust and be good stewards of your financial support. We have taken MANY steps over the past couple of years to reduce our operating expenses, and will continue to make changes to improve our overall operating efficiency. We deeply appreciate your support over the past few years, because, without that support, we would be looking at a very different scenario right now. However, next school year will be about as far as we can stretch the budget. So, as I’ve mentioned in the past three State of the Community addresses, we will need to ask for your support for new operating funds in the November 2020 General Election.”
11. How is district administration being impacted by the budget and reductions? No administrative cuts are being made for the upcoming school year because several have already occurred over the past few years. Moreover, nearly a month ago, the entire administrative team committed to take a base salary freeze for each of the next three years.The following changes have occurred with the administrative team.
- What other cost-saving measures has the district implemented in the past several years?
Transportation reorganization for 2018-2019
– Daily miles have reduced from 152 to 107 miles
– Yearly mileage will go from 56,388 to 39,530 for a reduction of 16,858 miles
– Reduction in required driver hours by 9.5%
- The district has been making cuts in purchasing, renegotiating contracts with vendors, and restructured contracted services throughout the past five years.
- We will be putting off the district wide replacement of technology devices another year (maybe two).
- We have worked to reduce the copying costs throughout the district.
- We’ve applied for grants to pay for programming instead of consuming general fund dollars.
- As part of the district construction project, old light fixtures district-wide are being replaced with LED lighting to reduce our electricity consumption (yet, we anticipate that our overall electrical consumption will like increase with the inclusion of air conditioning in all buildings). The district is also replacing our HVAC equipment to have more efficient heating.
- The district has used federal and state dollars instead of local dollars to provide professional development and student support services.
Other staff savings efforts
Disclaimer: There have been other partial hires, shifts, etc. that occurred throughout these years that are too numerous to add here.
- Is there an updated five year forecast now that a RIF has been made? A full updated financial forecast will be available at the May 2019 regular board meeting, after the reductions are approved. However, here are the adjustments to the staffing revenue vs. expenditures before and after the RIFs (and with the delay of new technology purchases.)
- Will we be losing services such as gifted services with these RIFs? No. Gifted services will look a bit different next school year, but because of the work of our gifted coordinator, we’ve actually expanded gifted services from grade 2 through high school and expect to be able to continue these services.
- Wasn’t the community told there would be no RIFs if the renewal levy passed in November of 2018? No. The campaign literature and approved talking points of the campaign never stated there would be no RIFs if the renewal levy passed. Click HERE to review the information that was provided on the district website. There was certainly no intent to mislead the community. However, we do appreciate that the levy campaign statement, “Passage of the renewal levy is crucial to maintain the current quality of teaching and continue to provide important educational opportunities for our students” has been understood by some to mean that there would be no changes in staffing. We believe that even with the current staffing reductions, we can honor and uphold that statement. (see question 4 above)We also understand that the statement, “Failure of this levy would require drastic cuts in personnel (salaries and benefits are 80% of the district’s operating budget) and programs” that was part of the campaign literature is being questioned. We understand that some would perceive the current level of staff reductions to be “drastic.” However, the district’s intent with that statement was that much greater staff cuts would have been needed. The current cuts certainly are larger in scale than what has been seen in recent years, and any cuts are always painful for everyone, but there was the district expectation that cost reduction efforts would continue (see questions 11 and 12 above) leading up to the November 2020 request for new operating funds in an attempt to minimize each year’s operating deficit and the millage request to the community. There was never any intent to mislead the community with the levy statements.
- Are there going to be more cuts in the future? Yes, there may be more cuts in the next few years. The district will continue to reduce costs where deemed appropriate and responsible moving forward. Identifying optimal staffing levels and potential areas where we may be able to streamline and/or increase our operational efficiency is something that occurs all of the time. It is a delicate balance between maximizing services and reducing costs to get as close to balancing the annual budget prior to the November 2020 election as possible, so we can minimize our levy request to the community.
- Why did the district pledge not to ask for new money until 2020 if it knew it would running in deficit? We had the bond/permanent improvement levies in 2016 and the renewal in 2018. We certainly could have used additional funds earlier (you can always use more money) but we didn’t want to overwhelm the community with levies for multiple years in a row. We also wanted to streamline and economize as much as possible prior to approaching the community for additional funds. The district has been running a deficit the past three years, but it is not unusual for school districts to run a deficit in the few years prior to asking for a new operating levy. Otherwise, why would you need one? We do have a safety net of a healthy reserve fund as described above, but it is dedicated to the construction/renovation project payments for the next 28 years. All dollars pulled from it will need to be replaced over time, so borrowing against it is not good long-term financial practice.
- What is happening with the libraries? Due to demolition and construction at Fairview High School and Mayer Middle Schools, there will be no library space available. The middle school and high school students will use a combination of current online databases and resources for research and will utilize the Fairview Park Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library across the parking lot from campus. The librarian and library media specialist previously assigned to the FHS/MMS will move from to Gilles-Sweet Elementary. Because of the construction project, a MS/HS library will not be present during the 2019-20 school year.