Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Fiscal Responsibility System

Mr. Verhoff's Blog

Cost Containment

Even in these dire economic times, we finished the 2009 fiscal year by meeting our two main goals of not eliminating educational opportunities for our students and keeping all staff employed.  With the additional cuts in state funding announced recently, these goals will become more difficult in meeting in 2010.  We will need to cut two million dollars from our proposed budget.

We started a Cost Containment Committee last year and this committee continues to meet to offer suggestions as to where cuts can be made.  Unfortunately, cuts of this size will likely impact staffing.  We have already frozen salary and cut benefits for administrators and non-certified staff.  We will hire very few new teachers and will discuss pay raises with the teacher’s association.  We have frozen or reduced supply accounts,  cut back on utilities, and stopped paying for field trips and professional travel.  Still, the cuts must be deeper.

We will keep the public informed as we make additional cuts and are interested in suggestions from the community.  Our schools are a big part of the fabric of our community and are a driving force in determining your property values.  We owe it to our students and taxpayers in maintaining the quality of our schools while dealing with our current financial restrictions.

Budget Update

As we approach the end of our fiscal year, an update would be appropriate.  We continue to make cuts in areas that do not impact jobs.  We reduced our new positions to the minimum needed to meet the additional 250 students enrolled this year.  Our revenue has been reduced by the economic factors and the state is indicating they may have to cut education funding if the economy does not rebound soon.   Recent increases in health care costs will also impact the budget in the coming year.  Although the majority of funds are in good shape, the district will have to spend some of its Rainy Day funds to meet salary and benefit obligations.

As we enter 2010, we will continue to cut our expenses in ways that do not impact instruction.  We will add new positions only when absolutely necessary.  Our class sizes, although not as high as other local schools, may continue to rise.   Staff cuts, reduced benefits, and a possible referendum are not out of the question.  However, these measures will be part of our “last resort” strategy.  Our goal remains the same, offering our students the maximum in educational opportunities  while maintaining fiscal restraint.

State Funding

This blog is intended to answer recent inquiries as to how we are doing financially since the state took over the General Fund.  I assume these questions come from reading stories about lawsuits, referendums, and cutbacks in neighboring districts.  Westfield receives approximately $6,000 per student when you include recent stimulus money.  By 2011, that amount is expected to drop to $5,959 per student.  We will receive more money simply because we have a growing enrollment.  We have added an additional 238 students across the district this year.  Even without inflation factored, our expenses continue to grow at a slower rate than the growth of student population.  We continue to educate more students with less money each year.  Inflation only makes the General Fund budget even tighter.   We continue to explore new revenue sources and new cost containment strategies.    While we may currently be better off than some of our neighbors, we are not as strong as we once were.  Hopefully, we have taken steps to lessen any pain until economic conditions improve.

Budget Goals

Fiscal responsibility starts with having clear budget goals.  We defer to these goals when writing the next budget or making daily decisions on expenditures.

Our first goal is to provide optimum learning opportunities for today’s students.  Students get only one chance for a K-12 education and we owe them the best chance at a successful post high school career.

Secondly, we must be cognizant of the tax impact.  We owe the tax payer maximum value for the dollars we receive.   The quality of schools significantly impacts the resale value of homes within a community.  Even homes without students are heavily invested in the welfare of the local school system.

We must also meet our financial obligations with a balanced budget and address categorical spending.  This is the amount of money reaching the classroom.  Over ninety percent of our general fund reaches the classroom.  However,  our overall percentage is distorted due to debt payments and operational expenses, which is not uncommon in a growing district.

Lastly, we must build a solid foundation for future years.  Students entering school today deserve the same quality of education as our current graduating seniors.  Financial stability has allowed this district to initiate and maintain quality programming over the years.  It has allowed us to retain our quality staff.

Please feel free to contact the school business office if you have questions or would like to discuss these goals in depth.  Together, we can build and maintain the quality system this community deserves.

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