Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10% Reduction in State Aid: What does that mean for the Earlham Community School District

On October 7th, the State Revenue Estimating Conference met to determine the anticipated revenues for the upcoming State budget. The Governor is required by law to use these figures to develop a State Budget that is revenue and expenditure balanced. You may have read where the Governor used monies from the State Reserve Fund to cover revenue/expenditure differences from the previous year.

With State revenues being estimated to equate to nearly $1 Billion short of projected expenditures for the current year, the Governor is required to make adjustments. In response, the Governor has ordered a 10% across-the-board reduction in State Aid for all agencies. The reductions in State Aid payments are set to begin in November 2009 and continue through June 2010. This obviously presents a significant challenge for all schools in Iowa and Earlham is no exception.

For the Earlham Community School District, this reduction in funding equates to $290,000. The district receives State Aid payments each month. This reduction equates to a loss in General Fund revenue of over $36,000 each month. The General Fund expenditures include salaries, benefits, textbooks, utilities and supplies.

An important concept to keep in mind is that this reduction in revenues does not affect the funding received through local property taxes. The District receives property taxes to pay for the bonded indebtedness for the building, the Physical Plant and Equipment fund which helps to maintain the building and purchase equipment and the Management Fund which pays for property insurance for the buildings, grounds, transportation fleet and liability.

The District is working to develop two plans: One to address revenue shortfalls for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year and another to address budget issues related to the 2010-11 school year and beyond. The District is fortunate to have some Cash Reserve funds that will assist in meeting financial obligations for the 2009-10 school year. Once the budget is approved on April 15th, there is no way to generate additional revenues for operating. We have started work with the School Board Finance Committee and ideas on how to reduce expenditures and operate more efficiently are being solicited from the staff.

It is very challenging to predict the future as the State revenues are always subject to change. The next Revenue Estimating Conference is scheduled for December. The Legislature can affect funding levels during their next session beginning in January. Economic conditions for the State and Nation can change between now and then. As these factors become more clear, I will attempt to keep updated information available.

Monday, October 12, 2009

September 2009 News

Greetings from the District office! As I am writing this, the weather is beginning to cool down, the leaves on the trees are just starting to change color, and the days are getting shorter. Fall is upon us and the students are doing a great job of settling into the routine of school.

One of the Earlham Community School District Belief Statements is; “Successful education occurs in a safe, stimulating, challenging and positive environment.” Let me begin by saying that I believe we have a very safe school with wonderful students and an extremely supportive community. With that said, I also believe that tragic situations can and do happen anywhere. It is the district’s responsibility to be as prepared as possible to address these situations properly. We must plan and be prepared with the hope that we will never have to use the plans. I want to share with you some of the things that the district is working on to make certain that the learning environment is safe for our students.

A Safety Committee was formed two years ago so that the emergency procedures of the district could be reviewed, revised and updated. As this process moved forward, six members of the committee were afforded the opportunity to attend a workshop entitled “Multi-hazard Emergency Planning for Schools” in Emmitsburg, MD. In conjunction with the Madison County Emergency Management services, the district was provided the tuition to attend through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As one of the attendees, I can tell you that it was a very eye-opening experience. There were three other districts that sent teams of staff to attend this week-long workshop from various states. It became clear almost immediately that all schools face the same issues related to safety. What was also apparent was that the method used by each school to address safety issues was dependent upon the size of district.

Upon returning from the workshop, the committee started to again revise the Crisis/Emergency Procedures Plan with a new focus. The updates to the plan that had been made prior to attending the workshop were very good, but they would only guide the district for the initial stages of various crisis situations. Additional planning needed to be done to be prepared for the duration of the various crisis situations. In addition, the committee perceived the need to better educate the staff and increase the realism of the different practice drills so as to better prepare in case an emergency/crisis situation occurs.

The district will continue to practice the fire and severe weather evacuation drills as in the past, but plans are being made to slightly modify the drills so that they would be more like the actual situation. In addition, the committee is planning to practice a “lock-down” type drill in which the students and staff are instructed to keep their students in the classroom, away from the doors and windows so that all students can be safe and accounted for. Practicing this type of drill may be useful in the situation where an intruder may be in the building. The district will also continue to practice bus evacuation drills, instruct students relative to farm safety, and provide content filtering for students researching information using the Internet.

You may have already read about the district receiving a portable AED (Automated Electronic Defibrillator) via a grant from Cintas. The district was also awarded two additional AEDs through a grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health and a donation from the PIE (Partners in Education) organization. The two new units are installed in the building, one near the practice gym/commons area and the other on the stage area in the competition gym. Monica Tibben, the school nurse, has provided opportunities for training on the proper use of the units as well as a refresher course in CPR. By the time you are reading this, we should have more than 15 staff members who have been trained on how to use these devices properly.

In closing, I want to assure everyone that the district is making efforts to fulfill the belief statement mentioned above. We have learned that this is an on-going, never ending process of planning and practicing to be prepared.