Dear Fairview Park families:
Over the years, we’ve worked hard to earn the trust of the Fairview Park community and be good stewards of the financial support provided by taxpayers. We have taken MANY steps over the past several years to reduce our operating expenses, and are continuing to make changes to improve our overall operating efficiency. We have provided regular updates on the financial status of the district at board meetings, at the annual State of the Community events, and when we have asked voters to approve issues on the ballot, including the most recent bond issue/permanent improvement levy in 2016 and the operating renewal levy in 2018. However, we know that is a lot of information to consume and recent awareness of staff reductions and operating deficits may be coming as a surprise to many of you.
Back in 2006, the school district made a commitment to the community that it would not request new operating dollars for 5 years. That promise is now going on 13 years. Three years ago, the district made the commitment to the community that we would stretch that promise until the November 2020 election before we ask for new operating dollars. Unfortunately, we’ve been running “in the red” for the past three years, in spite of the many (non-staff) reductions, reorganizations and efforts to reduce our overall expenses.
This past November, the community passed Issue 5, the district’s one and only renewal levy. And whereas we are immensely grateful to our community 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. This was shared during the campaign and if the renewal had not passed, budget reductions would have to be far greater.
And the recent property tax re-appraisal didn’t have as big of an impact as most may believe. Unfortunately, it only provides a less-than-one-percent increase to the school districts’ total operating budget. It does not produce the “windfall” many assumed or hoped it would.
As you can see from the Revenue vs. Expenditures line from the District’s latest five-year forecast below, despite all our previous efforts to cut in other areas and streamline operations, we still have been “in the red” for the past three years. This forecast is shared at October and May board meetings and is posted on our website. This school year we will be “in the red” by over $814,000, and it’s only going to get worse without significant changes.
(Here is a full copy of the five-year forecast if you would like to see more. Note that line items 10.010/15.010 are dedicated to pay down of the construction/renovation project. If you have any questions specific to the five year forecast, please email our Treasurer, Kim Sperling.)
But, because more than 81% of the district’s overall expenditures are from staff salaries and benefits, we have been faced with no other choice than to make staff reductions for the 2019-20 school year. In the process of deciding who gets “laid off” (or RIF’d, as it’s typically called – “Reduction In Force”) the processes in the collective bargaining agreements must be followed. Teachers are selected by licensure and seniority in the district. Non-teaching staff are selected by position and seniority. It is important to note that eliminating the current 11 positions will reduce the deficit forecasted for the 2019-2020 school year (FY20), but will not completely erase it.
Yesterday, I met with eleven staff members (8 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers, and one classified/non-teaching staff member) who will be directly impacted by staff reductions for next school year. There has been a lot of confusion, frustration and misinformation spreading in the past 18 hours, so I wanted to share this information with everyone directly. More importantly, I encourage you to help support and assist those impacted as we continue through the end of this school year and beyond. All of these staff members will remain on a recall list for three years, as stated in our collective bargaining agreements, and could return if financial or enrollment conditions change.
There are a lot of factors that are considered in these decisions. Of course, we never want to lose ANY of our great staff members. There was a reduction in our enrollment this past year in grades 1-5 (only 35 students across all five grades) which was a contributing factor. Enrollments tend to go up and down like this over time. The primary factor in the decisions were budgetary. After the reductions, class sizes in grades K-5 (currently averaging around 21.1 students per class) will only rise to an average of 23.8 students per class. Middle school and high school class size averages will remain in the mid-20s. (They vary more than elementary classes based on the grade level and course.) Our goal is always to keep our class sizes as low as possible while being fiscally responsible.
These are incredibly difficult decisions to make as we care about and value each and every member of our Warrior Family. This is the worst part of operating a school district, but we have to balance our budget or we will end up with the financial challenges we see several of our neighboring communities struggling to fix. I know also that these decisions bring out many emotions, ranging from sadness to mourning to anger. (We all are experiencing them as well.) We must help each other seek to understand and support each other through these changes. If you have further questions, I encourage you to reach out to your building principals or email me or our treasurer, Kim Sperling.
Dr. Bill Wagner, Superintendent
Fairview Park City Schools