Dublin City Schools has a long history of excellent financial management rooted deeply in a philosophy of accountability to taxpayers. The district has received numerous awards for its financial management during the years, including the "Making Your Tax Dollars Count" award from the state auditor's office. The district also has earned the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for a number of years.

Dublin City Schools has a long history of excellent financial management rooted deeply in a philosophy of accountability to taxpayers. The district has received numerous awards for its financial management during the years, including the "Making Your Tax Dollars Count" award from the state auditor's office. The district also has earned the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for a number of years.

More than $5.5-million has been reduced from the district budget over the course of the next two years. The impact of these reductions is that they place the district in a better position to operate and maintain its high credit ratings until the end of its four-year levy cycle in June 2010.

Credit rating affirmed

The district's credit rating is vital to our taxpayers because it determines how much interest we pay on bonds that are issued and whether the district is able to fund no-new millage bond issues. No-new millage bond issues have been used in the district since 1994 and allow new school buildings to be constructed, equipment to be purchased and maintenance to be funded, without raising property tax millage.

Recently, treasurer Stephen Osborne and I met with representatives of Standard and Poor's and Moody's Investors Service. Both agencies reaffirmed the district's current high credit ratings.

With Moody's, our credit rating is Aa1, which is the second-highest possible credit rating awarded. There are only 40 districts nationwide that have received this rating from Moody's. With Standard and Poor's, our rating is AA+, which is roughly equivalent to the Moody's rating. There are only three other districts in Ohio with this high rating.

Analysts cited sound financial management and manageable debt burden as two of the main reasons the district has maintained its credit ratings. Community support also plays a key role in maintaining credit ratings.

Financial planning

In Dublin City Schools, we have developed plans for four-year levy cycles. When most school districts are on the ballot in November, collection of new revenue begins in January. Because Dublin has excelled in financial planning, if our voters approve an issue this November, it will not begin to be collected until January 2010.

Mr. Osborne's five-year forecast approved by the board of education in October remains accurate and is another hallmark of prudent planning. The costs associated with staff, fuel, utilities and other purchase services are all carefully examined and projected with great accuracy.

Even with excellent planning, we face financial challenges.

Rising costs and Ohio

school funding

Our students' needs and the costs of many goods and services continue to escalate. An example of growing student need and flat funding is our English Language Learners (ELL) program. In 2004-05, there were 706 ELL students in the district. Today there are more than 1,000. As these needs have increased, federal grant dollars have been reduced, leaving the balance to be paid out of the district's general fund. The needs of special education students in our district also continue to grow and associated costs continue to rise.

Dramatic increases in insurance premiums and fuel costs also have contributed to the need to reduce expenses. In fiscal year 2004, the district paid $1.30 per gallon for diesel fuel. Today that figure has risen to $3.87 per gallon.

While costs have risen, school funding from the state has remained flat and the funding system remains flawed. I could spend an entire column discussing phantom revenue, which continues to cost districts such as ours significant dollars.

Protecting property values

For families with school-age children, the quality of Dublin City Schools is probably the biggest factor in their decision to buy a home here. Although they are looking for the best education their property taxes can buy, they also have an interest in the ability to resell their home. There is a distinct correlation between property values and the quality of education in a community. The ability to maintain high property values should be of the utmost importance to everyone who values their home, especially in this tough real estate market. The health of our school district, both academically and financially, has an impact on everyone who owns property here.

Accountability

As I stated above, the district has been consistently awarded for its financial reporting. We also do everything we can to conserve the dollars our taxpayers provide. Our district was the first in Ohio to institute a high-deductible health care plan and health savings account program for its 1,600-plus employees. This high-deductible form of health insurance has saved the district money on the constantly rising costs of health care.

The district's energy conservation program is another highly successful method of conserving taxpayer dollars. The program features the installation of motion sensitive light systems in all district classrooms and offices. The lights only turn on when someone enters the room and are set to turn off after a period of time, if no movement is detected.

Variable frequency drives on all building air handlers slow start the motors to save energy upon startup and also allow the air handlers to run slower when a school building is at lower occupancy. Outdated boilers and chillers have been replaced with modern equipment that has led to additional energy efficiency and cost savings.

We remain committed to controlling and monitoring expenditures, while at the same time maintaining our excellent academic and extracurricular programs.

David Axner is superintendent of Dublin City Schools.

David

Axner