by Lake County News-Chronicle
May 2, 2013 at 8:34 am in Lake County News-Chronicle
The Lake Superior School District school board held a special meeting before a full house on Tuesday to discuss looming budget cuts under consideration for next year. Continue Reading
Tags: Budget, deficit, Education, Lake County, School Board 2 Comments »
The 4-day week was supposed to save $200,000-$250,000 per year, or a projected total of $400,000-$500,000 over two years. The actual savings, as reported to me by Superintendent Crandall, was as follows: FY11=$189,765 and Fy12=$207,918 for a total of $397,683.
Then, before the savings were actually realized, in the first year of the 4-day week a number of buses were purchased, one configured as an activity bus as I recall. The cost of these buses had to be between $200,000 and $300,000. These new buses replaced aging ones, which were borderline in terms of state guidelines for required replacement. It is possible, if still in good mechanical and safe condition, state waivers could have been granted to give the buses a bit longer usable life. This option would have been a viable alternative because of the district’s financial condition. However, financially these dollars are depreciated and spread over the life of the buses, so they will not impact the district financials all at one time.
Then, for FY12/2013 staff salary increases were granted (excluding custodians), according to Superintendent Crandall. For FY2012, the salary increases added $251,961 to the district’s expenses. For FY2013, the salary increase amounts added approximately $257,000 to expenses. The total over the two year period was $508,961. If one assumes approximately the same expense amount for FY2014 will be incurred (say, conservatively another $257,000 minimum), the three year increase in expenses for the district due to salary increases will total $785,961.
Custodial increases will have to be added to the staff increases to get the grand salary new expense total going into FY2014. I don’t know this number.
A portion of federal grant monies to the state were passed on to the district. Nearly all of this money was used to offset an increase in staff health insurance costs, according to ex-superintendent Minkkinen. To the best of my knowledge, the staff was not asked to share in any of these cost increases.
Health insurance costs for the district in FY11 = $1,739,439 and in FY12 = $1, 759,028. Superintendent Crandall said “the benefit costs have gone up 12% in both years for all employees”. That is around $209,908 per year. For this year, according to industry studies, average health insurance costs will go up around 4.5%. That adds for 2014 a minimum of around $122,755.
So, add it all up and you come to a minimum of $1,328,532 in additional district operating expenses going into FY2014 caused by staff salary increases and benefit cost increases, with no staff sharing in the benefit increase costs (to the best of my knowledge; someone can correct me if I’m wrong).
Subtract the total 4-day week savings of $397,683 from the salary and benefit increases, and you get $930,849…just about the $900,000 the district is now projecting as a shortfall going into FY2014. New bus depreciation would add a little to this total.
However, if salaries had remained frozen, and had staff shared in even half of the benefit increase costs (around $271,286 over the three years), and the 4-day week savings applied, the district would have been heading into FY2014 with a surplus of $157,247. Those sacrifices may have been hard to accept, but why shouldn’t this have been the case if the district was in such tough financial condition when the 4-day week was started?
And how did the kids do with all this spending on staff? The kids showed no net improvement in standardized testing scores (they were already unacceptable when the 4-day week started), and registered a precipitous drop in science scores.
While all this was going on in our school district, which supposedly was getting its finances in order, what was happening to other folks facing tough challenges in today’s economic climate?
Employee share of health care costs were rising, deductibles and copays were increasing and fewer employers were offering traditional plans. Many working people were left with choices of high deductible and employee contribution HSA coverage. A large portion of the working population was in part-time jobs without any benefits. Most people were happy to share costs just to have somewhat affordable benefits.
Debt was being paid down where it could be and budgets were carefully managed. Spending dropped, and savings were up. In many areas, salaries were dropping and hours were being cut. Around 30 million of our fellow Americans are still looking for livable wage full-time jobs; half of college graduates can’t find work and they are heavily burdened with school debt; most people are making the sacrifices necessary to keep their jobs and care for their families.
So what does our school district really need? A district where Superintendent Crandall says the average teacher costs around $63,000/year (Which, if you take out the community education portion of the budget, makes staff expense more than 80% of education costs, not 60% as claimed in the article). In a district with a general fund budget of over $14,000,000 and community education bringing that to around $19,000,000 (from the data I have been provided).
What the district needs is a continuing demand from those it services to live within its means, and that the board and superintendent show more courageous, creative and focused decision-making prowess in managing finances and program priorities. And perhaps staff should be more willing to share in the same kinds of sacrifices the rest of us are making, and be held more accountable for the outcomes of their work?
Senator Bakk and Representative Dill have informed me the legislation proposed by the district to allow them to force a $200 per student levy each year with no end, and with no public referendum, has been defeated.
Hopefully, this will help force the school board and our district leadership to begin facing up to the tough choices they need to make to get the district’s basic education priorities and finances back in focus.
The continuing failure to do so is what has really put our school district in the position it is currently in.
Like or Dislike: 17 4
Mark B, thank you for recapping my own frustrations with the facts!
Like or Dislike: 13 3
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