Milford School District talks cuts: Community meeting 6:30 p.m., June 17

At the Special Meeting for the Milford Board of Directors on Monday, June 1, the Board decided on a plan to make initial budget cuts within the district. Since the failure of the major construction and operations referendum last May, the district is forced to make additional cuts. These cuts will come on top of $1.2 million dollars of cuts already made over the past two years, so the district is, literally, cutting into the bone.

Listed is a Year End Position Statement which shows the available funds in our local current expense revenue accounts since the 2009-2010 school year.

Budget cuts-1As one can see, there appears to be an increase of almost $1 million in the 2010-2011 school year, but it is a little deceiving. During that particular year, the money received from the State’s Educational Sustainment Fund was added into the year-end balance. The Educational Sustainment Fund is the State allocation (based on earned units) designated for payroll and payroll related expenses. This fund was approved by the General Assembly to assist districts in replacing the funds previously provided by the Federal Government. Without this assistance from the State, many districts would have been forced to cut teaching positions because they would not have been able to pick up the local portion of teacher salaries. So, going into year 2010-2011, the administration chose to show those funds as a part of the local year-end balance only to later use those funds, in the 2011-2012 school year to pay for a teacher salary increase in an effort to maintain competitive local salary scales. There was nothing wrong with doing it this way, but it makes it look as though we saved a specific amount of money when that money was actually earmarked to pay salaries throughout the following year. This helps to explain the $5 million increase in expenditures for the following year; the money was taken out for salaries and additional expenses incurred through traditional school supplies and maintenance.

Budget cuts pl-2In the 2012-2013 school year, after eliminating some positions and making other cuts, we still ended the year with an additional $1.1 million dollar deficit. This was due, primarily to sustaining teacher salaries, paying increased utilities, and making up for Federal and State budget cuts such as transportation costs, loss of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – The Federal Government in an attempt to stimulate the economy during the current fiscal crisis established the ARRA to be directed towards Title I schools.) funding, cuts in State funded positions, etc. The same is true for the 2013-2014 school year, and unfortunately, this appears to be the trend. It is important to know, however, that the district has done, and is continuing to do, whatever it can to cut back on spending. We have cut positions and programs to stretch our dollars as far as possible. In the past two years, we have cut our building budgets by 30% (classroom supplies, teaching curriculum support, student workbooks, and other district funded student resources) and will make deeper cuts for next year. We have eliminated our elementary summer school programs and closed the secondary programs to only students who must take a class for promotion purposes. We have cut the reading tutor programs that we used to have in the elementary schools because the State no longer funds reading or math specialists at that level, and we have cut a number of school enrichment programs.

Because we have not been able to pass an operations referendum, the Board of Education was asked to approve further cuts by approving either Plan A or Plan B below.
Subsequently, the Board chose to approve Plan B for the upcoming school year.

However, the district must go back out for an operations referendum if it expects to be able to financially support its self. With the cost of running the district and offering the best for our children, we have no other choice. On May 28th, we had a financial consultant from the Department of Education meet with us to look at what we had done so far in reducing spending and to give us advice in going forward. He agreed that we must go out for an operations referendum if we have any hope of keeping this district solvent. Overall, what we have done so far will extend our ability to run on-our-own for three to four more years. But, we all know that you can’t spend what you don’t have no matter how frugal you may have been, so an operations referendum is inevitable.

Unfortunately, the district has little means of raising money except through tax collection. In 2006, when the last successful referendum passed, the district chose to lessen the burden on the community by eliminating the capitation tax for everyone. A capitation tax, also called a head tax, is levied on all persons 18 years of age and older living in the district. This means that regardless of whether you own property or not within the district, you would be included in this tax. The only way, however, that the capitation tax could be applied is through a referendum. We are not saying that we want to reinstate the capitation tax, but we are just exploring every avenue and trying to decide what is best for our teachers, students, and community.

Budget cuts pl-3Another avenue that is available to the district is to reinstate the “Match” Tax which is available to any district without having to go out for a referendum. The match tax is a program established by the State which allows districts to match State funding for three match taxes:

• Technology – this can be used for technology equipment maintenance, repair, or replacement.

• Reading and Math Resource Teachers – This can be used in grades K through 5 for reading and grades 7 – 8 for math, and the money must be spent on assisting students who need additional support and instruction in the areas of reading and math.

• Extra Time – This money can only be spent on providing additional instruction for low achieving students.
This match tax was used by this district up until the 2009-2010 school year. At that time, the Board voted to eliminate all match taxes, and although reviving those taxes is an option for the district, we wish not to do that at this time.

I know that there is a lot of information in this one article, but we want you to know exactly what has been done in the past and what needs to be done for our future. If you would like to hear more about the capitation tax or the match taxes, we will hold a meeting on Wednesday evening, June 17th in the Annex Board Room to answer any of your questions. Please note that the district is not suggesting that they will impose, or carry out, any of these tax reforms. We just want you to know about the options that we have been discussing and give you time to ask questions or give input.

So, if you want more information, please plan on attending our meeting on June 17th, at 6:30 p.m., in the Annex Board Room.

Dr. Kohel is Milford School District’s Superintendent. 

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