Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Fiscal Responsibility System

Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Legislative Update

With the passage of the new budget, we have a much clearer picture of how Westfield Schools will be impacted for the next two years. The new funding formula gives us a slight increase of state revenue per student. In 2012, we are projected to receive $21.00 more per student which is a .4% increase. While small, it does reverse the recent trend of less funding we have endured in recent years. In these difficult times, stable revenue is appreciated.

Unfortunately, the state did reduce the funding for the English as a Second Language Program. The impact to us is unknown at this time, but I imagine we will have to reduce services in that area. The Full Day Kindergarten Grant was fully funded. This grant helps subsidize FDK, but does not pay the entire cost. We will have to evaluate the impact to us and if we can expand our current program. We will also look at space restrictions, transportation and other logistical concerns of expanding the FDK program.

Collective bargaining, merit pay, vouchers, and charter schools were also addressed. Time will tell how each of these initiatives impact our students.

Financial Goals 2011

Now that we have moved into a new year it is appropriate to revisit our financial goals.  We will continue to offer the greatest educational opportunities to our students at the lowest possible impact to the taxpayer.  We will not see any additional money from the state, so our pot of money is only increased by the recently passed referendum.  Those dollars will be used to maintain our programs and staffing.  We will, however, continue to work hard to reduce expenditures.  We are currently working are to reduce the costs of copiers and utilities. 

We have taken a hard look  at expenditures per student over time to see if we are actually saving money.  Our overall expenditures will continue to go up as we add new students.  However, the increase in expenditures per student  have not even kept up with inflation.  We are offering our students more for less.  This year money will continue to be tight and we will continue to look at ways to reduce our expenditures with minimal impact to the students.

Thank You, Westfield

Now that the referendum is over, it is a time to thank a lot of people.

First, I would like to thank the supporters of the referendum. Your votes will help us to continue our efforts to provide our students with the best educational opportunities. You will see your investment payback as these students succeed in the future. You will see it as your quality of life and property values remain high.

Secondly, I would like to thank everyone for the high standards set for our schools. I enjoy working for a school district where the expectations are high and the community demands excellence. I would want no less. I shared with many voters that we could not meet those high expectations without the passage of the referendum. While our schools would not have closed, our ability to provide the quality this community expects would have been greatly diminished. Please continue to hold us to those high standards. By doing so, our students and community benefit.

Lastly, I would like to thank all Westfield residents, irregardless of how or if you voted. The civility of this process is a great reflection on our community. While many did not vote in support, I never felt our difference in opinion generated any name calling or character assassination like we saw in other communities. Today, I am even more proud to be from Westfield.

Where will the money go?

As Election Day approaches, I frequently get asked two questions.

The first question is, “Why did Westfield wait until now to have the referendum as opposed to the neighboring schools who had one in May?”  The answer is that we were trying to buy time and avoid having any referendum. We were trying to settle our teacher contract concessions, make staff cuts, and identify other cost saving initiatives to reduce the budget.  We were buying time hoping the economy would turn around and the state would meet their obligations.  While we were successful with the first endeavor, the economy has not rebounded. If anything, we face additional cuts from the state.  We are spending our Rainy Day Fund to get through this year, but that fund is quickly being depleted. Simply put, we will not be able to offer our students the educational opportunities that have made our district successful.

The second question is, “Where will the money go?”  It will be used to fill some of the current deficit, not add discretionary revenue.  Maintaining what we have by partially restoring lost state revenue has always been the goal of the referendum.  This will allow us to control class sizes, maintain our technology offerings, and continue the programs that directly impact students.  It is our promise to the community that the money will be spent wisely and on the students.

We only get one chance to educate our students.  A “YES” vote will allow us to educate the next generation of students, protect property values, and send a strong message that Westfield is a community that supports a quality education for their children. See you on Election Day.

Westfield Schools and Youth Sports

As a district, we are consistently asked our opinion and our role in youth sports. Although we are not affiliated with any particular group, the district has always supported youth sports and believe strong organizations dedicating themselves to youth are vital to any community. We respect the time and energy devoted by parents, coaches, and players to make it a positive experience for all.

We are committed to providing appropriate use of our facilities to make youth sports successful. Rental fees, while minimal, contribute to the financial resources of the district and allow us to use those resources to provide more opportunities for all Westfield students and help taxpayers.

Upon entering school sponsored competition, we strive to make the experience positive for all. Affiliation with a particular youth organization will not factor into who makes the school teams. Our tryouts are fair and unbiased to all.

We hire excellent people as coaches and support their efforts. They not only know their sport, but also know how to treat athletes. Our coaches are expected to run well organized programs and offer their knowledge to any and all youth leagues in their sport. The huge majority of youth coaches gladly accept the help of our varsity coaches and we believe young athletes benefit because of it. Clinics are offered for both players and coaches. Attending these clinics can help a young athlete transition from a youth organization to a school team.

Unfortunately, adult issues and personality conflicts sometimes occur in youth sports and no one wins when that happens. At times, young athletes are negatively impacted by dominating and controlling adults. The image of over zealous adults is often seen in the media, if not experienced in real life. While the school is rather limited in minimizing this negative behavior in groups outside of our control, we remain committed to doing everything possible to make youth sports a positive experience for kids.

Head Start at Monon Elementary

Westfield Schools is proud to welcome the Head Start Program into our district.  They will be housed at Monon Trail Elementary.  This is  a win-win situation.  Head Start offers school readiness services for children who might otherwise enter school behind in their skills.  The district would then have to provide additional services to get these students on grade level.  Research shows that early intervention is the most successful and cost efficient.

During their stay, Head Start will pay rent to the district adding revenue to the district.  In these hard economic times, additional revenue is critical if we are to maintain our programs.  The program will also add additional funds to our lunch program as we will feed these children daily.  This will allow us to maintain our existing lunch prices, offering some relief to all of our families.

Pay To Play

Starting this fall, the district has instituted a ‘pay to play” fee for any student wishing to play on a high school or middle school team. The fee will be $35.00 per athlete, per sport. This fee is a direct response to the budget being cut.
The logic is that we want all students to be able to participate. Many schools have chosen to do away with certain sports, middle school athletics, or “B” teams. Others have reduced coaching positions, lowering supervision and putting the safety of the participants at risk. Making these cuts also reduces a student’s chance to participate. Charging a fee allows us to keep teams intact and allow more students the chance to participate.

The money raised will be used to pay coaches’ salaries and offset some of the transportation costs. Historically, these costs have been absorbed by the district, not the athletic department. Gate receipts have never been used to fund these particular expenses.

To be fair to all sports the fee will remain in effect for the entire 2010-2011 school year. If the referendum passes in November, this fee will be re-evaluated for the following school year. The bad economy has caused many cuts across the district and athletics must bear some of the pain. The ‘Pay to Play” program, while not something we want to do, is our best effort to offer the best for our students.

Referendum Questions

As most of you know, Westfield Schools will have an opperations referendum on the November 2nd ballot. Going to the voters to increase our revenue was the last option.  Although we have cut staff and other expenses, we have tried to continue to provide the best possible education to our students.  Our state revenue continues to go down as our student population continues to rise.

Hopefully, our community support will be sufficient to approve the referendum so that we can maintain the programs we have built.  Please be sure to check out the referendum section of our website.  We want to answer any and all questions that a voter may have.  Please feel free to call my office to discuss specific questions in more detail.  We believe it is our obligation to present accurate facts to the voting public.  Given the correct information, people can make a more informed decision in the voting booth.   We appreciate the support the schools receive from community groups, especially those who no longer have children in our schools.  We truly live in a blessed community.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Text Book Rental and Student Fees

While most people are looking forward to summer, the business department is already working on next school year.  As we prepare the fee structure for the upcoming year, I wanted to share with you our efforts to keep costs to a minmum.  While our budget is stretched, we do not plan to pass the problem on to parents by increasing fees to an unreasonable level.

We will not raise lunch prices for the 2010-2011 school year.  We want kids to be able to eat a nourishing lunch at an affordable cost.  We will raise the cost of our after-care programs this fall, but it will be the first increase since the program’s inception.  Increased costs will offset inflation and allow us to continue to provide the quality of program you see today.  We still offer prices lower than the competitive market for child care.

Text book rental and class fees will remain constant from last year with only slight adjustments in a few areas.  Our building principals work very hard at keeping these costs from escalating. Remember that at the high school, your child’s course selection has a big impact on your overall bill.   We also try to make paying these fees as easy on your family budget as possible.  We stagger the due date for K-6 and 7-12 to give some relieve to families with multiple siblings.  We offer multiple payment plans.  If these fees become burdensome, please contact our office and we will work with you.  Even with the difficult economic times, payment of these fees have been remarkable, and for that, our district is appreciative.  Indiana is one of only a few states that do not fund textbooks, but until that changes, we will do our best to keep the fees low.

Comparing School Districts

Recently, I have been asked numerous times why Westfield Schools do not appear in the local papers concerning our fiscal stability.  Is Westfield that much better off  than the other local schools and, if so, why?  Evidently,  the other local districts are bigger and more newsworthy than our district.  Although each district is different, we are not immune to the fiscal problems faced by all Indiana schools.  We are definitely not as strong as we were three years ago and continue to lose ground.  We have taken some painful steps to lower the impact of state cuts and reduced funding.  Administration and non-certified staff have had their salaries frozen and benefits reduce.  We have worked with the teaching staff, asking that they look at similar cost cutting measures.  To date, the teaching staff has stepped up to help, knowing we cannot continue offering the educational opportunities to our students unless the budget is balanced.  Expenditures are down significantly, but may still not meet the reduction in funding.  The quality of services offered in our district is in jeopardy, just like neighboring districts.

Is a referendum in Westfield’s future?  Nothing has been decided, but the subject has been discussed.  We have built an outstanding district and would like to continue to offer the current opportunities to the next generation of students.  We will continue to look for more cost savings, but at some point, cuts hurt students.  This is a competitive world and we need to arm our students with the skills to prosper in this world.  I have no way of predicting the outcome of the referendum of each local school, but see it as a more widespread issue.  We will see in May if these neighboring districts are willing to invest in the future of their communities and children.

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