Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Fiscal Responsibility System

Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Spending Priorities

We now live in an era of competing resources, having to make daily decisions as to how we spend our money.  Our priorites become even more crucial as we know we cannot approve every request.  Our number one priority has always been the investment in our staff.  Every district is a reflection of the people who work there.   The best districts have the best staffs. We  continue to do more with fewer people, but we must always put our resources toward our human capital.  

Debt payments will continue to require a significant portion of our overall budget.  We have taken steps to both restructure some of our debt and to reduce the need to add additional debt in the near future.  Due to the tax caps, debt will remain an issue until our taxable assessed value increases as the economy rebounds.

Money left after salaries and debt are paid, is spent in a very calculated way.  The number one priority is the safety of  our students.  Any safety issue immediately moves to the top of the priority list.  Instructional opportunities is next in line.  We must provide today’s students with every reasonable opportunity to succeed.   Unlike the business world, we cannot cheapen today’s product to balance budgets.  We get only one chance to educate this generation.  Next is preventive maintainence.  We must protect the investment in our facilities by our taxpayers.  We must avoid large expenses in the future by taking care of proper maintenance today.  Finally, if any additional funds are still left, money is devoted to making the district a more conducive place for children to learn.  Cosmetic projects are addressed, but only after all other priorities are addressed.  Wants are addressed only after needs are met.

We remain committed to getting the most value from the dollars we are given.  The staff has bought into the list of priorities and are committed to offering every possible opportunity to our children.  Additional time, energy and professionalism makes up for reduced dollars. Many people work very hard to make this happen.  This only makes it more obvious that our greatest investment should continue to be in our human capital.

Financial Update

The district continues to struggle with reduced revenue. As stated in previous blogs, the tax caps and declining assessed values have negatively impacted our district harder than most. While pending legislation at the statehouse may help somewhat, until property values trend back up and the economy recovers, we will have to operate with less money.

That being said, we continue to lower our non-instructional dollars per student and push more of our remaining dollars into the classroom. While we spend less overall dollars per student, we have been able to provide more opportunities to our students.

Two significant ways to accomplish this is to reduce our utility costs and to restructure our debt. A tremendous amount of work by many people has gone into reducing our utility costs. Everyone’s patience as we worked through the program is appreciated. Remember, every dollar saved goes to balancing our overall budget and providing better instructional opportunities.

Debt payments will continue to be a big part of our overall budget, but we continue to explore ways to minimized that impact. It will take some time to see our progress in this area.

During the toughest of times, we have not changed our goals of offering the best for our students through sound fiscal practices. While dollars may be limited our best asset is still the quality of our students, parents, and staff. For that, we remain blessed.

Budget Year 2011 in Review

As the budget year comes to a close, it is appropriate to report on how we have done and what the future might bring.
On the positive side, due to the community support in passing the referendum, we were able to maintain our programs and staff. This allows to to continue to offer the type of instructional programs our community and parents expect and our students deserve. The academic successes of WWS have been significant this year, but some of these successes would be hard to accomplish without the financial resources provided to us.

On the negative side, the tax caps and decreasing assessed values present a huge challenge to our non-instructional budget. Loss of revenue due to tax caps is over 5 million dollars. Even with this loss of revenue, we must make our debt payments. We must make up this loss by cutting expenses, reducing maintenance and transportation, and reducing the purchase of new buses. We continue to look for ways to reduce the impact debt has on our budget.

We will make every attempt to maintain, or lower, our existing tax rates. This is hard to do with assessed valuations decreasing over the last three years. Budget year 2012 does not look like much of an improvement, but 2013 shows some light at the end of the tunnel. As taxable assessed value increases, every taxpayer can pay less.

As difficult as these times are, we appreciate how blessed we are to work in this community and school district. We will continue to provide the best for kids while being fiscally responsible.

Buy Westfield

As you go through your holiday shopping, we ask you to strongly consider supporting Westfield businesses and shopping locally. Your support of local businesses positively impacts the local economy and the finances of the schools. A strong business community is drawn to Westfield because of the reputation of great schools. Likewise, that same business community supports the local school system without adding additional students. Unfortunately, businesses do not receive the same tax cap relief as residents. Westfield has great restaurants, stores, and other businesses that add to our community in so many ways. So whether you are taking your family to dinner, buying your next car or insurance policy, or going to the eye doctor, please consider supporting your local business. It is a win-win situation for all.

Winter Preparations

While most people are trying to enjoy the autumn weather, we are busy preparing for the inclement weather we experience in Indiana. Our goal is always  to insure the safety of everyone. While we hate to delay or cancel school, we make our decisions on safety first. The decisions are based on the information we are given at that time. The results are as unpredictable as the weather itself. We understand that whatever decision is made it is going to be unpopular with someone, but we try to look at all factors. Those factors are temperature, wind chill, conditions of the roads, bus stops and our parking lots, and weather reports.

We are making sure our equipment is working and salt is available. Our transportation department and bus drivers have  always done a great job dealing with extreme conditions.  We will be putting our buildings into winter mode after fall break. Parents will again be contacted by Global Connect messages to inform them of any school delays or closings. The local television stations will continue to send out the same information and you can call our central office or go to our web page.

No student will be penalized for being late on a day of inclement weather. Parents can always use their own best judgment as to whether it is safe to come to school or to allow their student to drive their personal vehicle.

Here is hoping for a mild winter.

Air Quality Tests

Recently, television stations have reported cases of poor air quality in some area schools and the state is in the process of putting new requirements in place to insure air quality is being tested.  Our district has always taken a proactive approach to this issue.  Our buildings are tested during and after any construction. We also test whenever a building principal makes a request or we have a reason to expect anything.  We take the “better to be safe than sorry” approach.

We have never had an unfavorable test result in any of our school buildings.  Every test done on a school building has shown the internal air qualitiy to be better than the outside air.  This is not surprising since outside air is pumped into our buildings through an extensive filter system.   The one negative test on the Sodexo building was addressed and has since been retested with positive results. 

We will continue to monitor the air in all of our buildings and will implement the state recommendations as they are finalized.  We will continue to insure that we have a safe environment for both students and staff.

Competing Resources

While students have been off for the summer, we have been busy with many projects.  The biggest summer project is to write the budget for the following calendar year.  The 2012 budget is moving through the approval process.   The budget will look much like the 2011 budget.  We will add an additional 170 students, but operate with about the same revenue per student.  Most of our cost cutting measures remain in effect.  Our expenses per student continue to decline.

Like everyone else, we are in an era of competing resources.  Dollars spent in one area must come from another.  Priorities are extremely important under these conditions.  Our number one concern remains the student’s safety and instructional opportunities.  Dollars saved through energy conservation and other initiatives will be directed into the classroom.  Technology purchases will be scrutinized to maximize the impact on instruction.

Our greatest resource is our people, both students and staff.  The district is achieving some great results due to the unbelievable efforts of our students and staff.  They continue to push the bar higher during poor economic times.  We continue to look for ways to keep the “competing resources” from negatively impacting our students.  Any suggestions from the community are welcome.

Summer Projects

While summer is passing quickly, we have been able to address many projects while the students are gone.  With the current budget being tight, we prioritize the projects to maximize our return.  Student safety and instruction are our two main priorities, followed by maintenance of facilities to offset future costs.  Cosmetic work orders are left till last.

This summer we have repaired playground cracks at three elementary schools,  installed a new secure front entrance at Oak Trace, addressed sidewalk and roof repair at Shamrock, began gym floor repair at WMS West and resurfaced the tennis courts.  This is in addition to the annual cleaning, maintenance, and grounds work done every summer.

One major project that was unexpected was the replacement of our chiller at Carey Ridge.  The current system died and we are in the process of installing a new more efficient and quiet system.  We are doing our best to have the system installed by the start of school.  If not, we are looking at options for temporary cooling until our new system is operational.

We still have many small work orders involving individual classrooms, ranging from repair to painting, to complete. Our Sodexo staff is working hard to make our environment safe and inviting for kids while protecting the investment the taxpayers have made  in our facilities.  Their efforts are greatly appreciated.

Non-Resident Students

A few years ago, the state allowed school districts to accept students living outside of the district.  Westfield did not accept such students because of space limitations.  Since we now have some additional space, our school board has agreed to allow a very limited number of non-resident students to attend Westfield Schools.  They must be allowed to attend tuition free since the state now pays the entire general fund.  We will, however, accept only students in good standing at their current schools, meaning they have not been discipline or attendance problems.  They must meet academic criteria to insure they are students that would contribute to the overall success of the district.

The number accepted would be determined each year and be based on space.  We may have to discontinue this practice as early as next year if growth dictates.  Until then, these students will generate some additional revenue without additional costs to the district.  Appropriately placed, the current student-teacher ratio would be lower than it is today.  Filling these empty seats will not require us to build additional space now or in the future.  When, not if, another building project is needed, this program would be discontinued so that we insure the needs of Westfield students will always be met without adding to the tax burden.

State Bus Inspection

This year the state moved the inspection of our bus fleet up to May and I am glad to report that Westfield passed with flying colors. This has been the case each year for over a decade and kudos go to our mechanics and drivers for keeping our buses in great working condition. With over 70 buses in our current fleet, this is no small task. Safety of our students has always been our number one concern and that is most obvious in our upkeep of our buses. With a new bus costing more than $100,000, our fleet is a huge investment for our taxpayers. Keeping them in great shape is protecting that taxpayer investment. Once again, thanks to our mechanics and drivers for a job well done.

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