Kettering Schools’ Reduced Tax Request — From 6.9 Mills To 4.9 Mills — Shows “Change Of Philosophy”

Last May 4, Kettering voters rejected the 6.9 mill levy of additional operating revenue for Kettering Schools by 642 votes.  The tally showed 6573 votes (48%) in Favor and 7215 votes (52%) against.

The Kettering School Board is now asking for 4.9 mills — to be decided in this November’s general election. A change from 6.9 mills to 4.9 mills signals a significant change in the district’s five year budget plan, and, according to School Superintendent, Jim Schoenlein, it is the result of, “a change in philosophy.”

Dr. Jim Schoenlein, Superintendent of Kettering Schools, in his office, last Friday, August, 13, 2010. We had a good conversation.

The previous five year budget forecast, that justified a 6.9 mill property tax increase for Kettering residents, showed that in budget years 2010 through 2014, total expenditures would be $440 million.  The new five year budget, for the same time period, shows total expenditures of $421 million — a total reduction over the five years of $19 million.

The first year of the new budget (2010) shows a total expenditure that is the same as the old budget — $82,139,965 — so the $19 million savings in the five year plan happens in the last four years.  However, the school year and the budget year are not the same, so cuts and changes start immediately in this 2010 – 2011 school year.  (See both five year plans here.)

This $19 million reduction in the five year budget required the Kettering Board to make some hard choices.

Here is my understanding of how $19 million was cut from the first five year plan, in order to decrease the request for new taxes from 6.9 mills to 4.9 mills:

  • Closing Moraine Meadows Elementary School @ $500,000 per year — saving $2 million in the new budget plan
  • Staff Reductions @ $1.5 million each year — saving $6 million in the new budget plan
  • Other Non-staff reductions @ $250,000 each year — saving $1 million in the new budget plan.
  • A reduction in inflation rate for personnel expenses from 4.8% in the first five year plan to 2.8% in the revised five year plan — saving $10 million in the new budget plan.

A budget that shows a change from 4.8% inflation in personnel expense to 2.8% inflation — while keeping the number of staff unchanged — shows a big shift in board policy.

Because the master contract includes built in step increases — for increased longevity and additional training — even if there is zero increase in the master contract, each year the contract results in a 2% inflation of personnel cost.  So budgeting for a 2.8% increase signals a tough bargaining stance. It looks like in the next three year contract there may be room in the budget, I’m guessing, for increases in the total cost of the master contract of: 0%, 1%, 1% .

In response to the e-mail that I sent to him, I met with Kettering School Superintendent, Dr. Jim Schoenlein, last Friday, in his office. I enjoyed the visit. Before I realized, almost an hour passed in discussion on topics inspired by Frederick Hess’s new book about “Greenfield Schooling.” I appreciated the fact that Dr. Schoenlein evidently had set aside a generous block of time for our meeting. We kept talking altogether for over two hours.

Dr. Schoenlein indicated that the new five year plan shows a “change in philosophy” for the school board, and is an effort by the board to respond to a change in the public attitude about pay for government workers.

The new plan shows a reduction in the percentage of the budget going to personnel expenses. The first five year budget plan, that required 6.9 mills of new taxes, showed that personnel expense took 85.9% of the budget.  The new budget, requiring 4.9 mills, shows that personnel expense will take 85.2% of the budget.

The reduction in staff, saving a total of $1.5 million each year, will occur through retirements.  Here is the list of the positions that will be eliminated:

  • Director of curriculum and instruction
  • Arena Manager / Kettering Education Fund executive
  • Kettering Middle School Assistant Principal
  • Data Coordinator
  • Middle School librarian
  • 3.5 Elementary Teachers
  • 2.8 High School Teachers
  • 1 Alternative School Teacher
  • 2 Gifted Teachers
  • 1 High School Counselor
  • 1 preschool Teacher

Dr. Schoenlein indicated that these staff changes will mean that many teachers and administrators will have more responsibility, more to do, and that, “everybody will need to pitch in.”

I’m impressed with this new plan offered by the Kettering Board, and I’m impressed with Dr. Schoenlein.  I believe the Kettering public will support this new budget plan and will vote, this November, to approve the 4.9 mill tax increase.

I indicated to Schoenlein my conviction that the transformation that is needed in public education can only come from a big push from the grassroots. It can only come from an informed public and from a vitalized democracy that responds.  Dr. Schoenlein indicated that, if I put together a schedule of public meetings for this autumn, dealing with the topic of transforming public education, that he will be glad to attend and participate.

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4 Responses to Kettering Schools’ Reduced Tax Request — From 6.9 Mills To 4.9 Mills — Shows “Change Of Philosophy”

  1. Eric says:

    Here is the list of the positions that will be eliminated … Middle School librarian … Elementary Teachers … High School Teachers … Gifted Teachers

    Governor Strickland’s education reforms itemize specific expenditures. Are Kettering salaries so high the Governor’s priorities can’t be met with available funds? (Hence the Governor’s concerns about current priorities.)

    For the Governor’s recommendations, see the PASS form for Kettering.

  2. John Q Public says:

    Granted, this is a step in the right direction, but the perfect economic storm resulted in a wake-up call for Kettering residents. Our home values decreased, but retain the same tax base. Many became under or unemployed, or existing on fixed income. So much so that the average income in Kettering dropped 17-19%! Little consolation is found palatable when there are step increases in effect every year and a base salary increase of 1.5% this school year. Here’s a novel idea -how about some real world market practices in employee contributions for benefits? John Q Public subsidizes these folk better than he can afford for himself and his household. Of my $1643 semi-annual taxes, $978 went to KCS, whereas the city got by with $277, and the remainder for county levies. Where is the detail of KCS operations and salaries? Are our taxes being utilized to it’s full advantage?

  3. Eric says:

    Where is the detail of KCS operations and salaries? Are our taxes being utilized to it’s full advantage?

    The PASS form linked above yields these per pupil expenditures for Governor Strickland’s “Evidence-Based Model”

    Kettering $5452.49
    Dayton $8104.38

    Both districts have some explaining to do since their per pupil expenditures exceed the Governor’s “adequacy” amount.

    Republicans bitterly objected to the Governor’s new funding formula. However, Ohio’s largest teachers’ union endorsed the formula and awarded Governor Strickland their “Friend of Education” for overcoming Republican opposition during the last state budget.

    Perhaps some loyal Democrats can explain how the Governor’s “transparent” and “accountable” funding scheme will help save jobs in KCS.

    On the bright side, Kettering’s improved state rating means the Governor’s “reforms” will impose fewer unfunded mandates on the district. I have no idea if the current forecast accounts for the mandates expected in the near future.

  4. Jack says:

    “Of my $1643 semi-annual taxes, $978 went to KCS, whereas the city got by with $277”. Remember, the City gets income tax, which they just increased by 1/2 percent which cost many of us more than the increase the schools are asking for. Property tax is the primary funding source for schools. Income tax is primary for the City.

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