Hilliard Northwest News

Guest column

Schools officials plan to be 'stingy' with finances

A year ago, Hilliard City Schools residents saw the need to stabilize the district's financial outlook and voted to approve a necessary operating levy.

District officials are very appreciative that the community understood the need to stop the deep cuts and protect their investment in our schools and community. However, that doesn't mean "business as usual."

Recently, the school board reviewed a very lean but stable five-year financial forecast. This is a district financial planning document that is reviewed by the board twice each year. It is a conservative plan and demonstrates our desire to be "stingy" with what we do have.

The reality is that this is a very lean budget that will maintain the current level of programming. We work from conservative numbers but the great unknown ahead is the governor's next budget.

When the state budget is released early next year, we will be watching closely and assessing how Hilliard City Schools will be affected.

Today, the district receives virtually the same amount of state financial aid as it did in 2006, but our enrollment has increased by approximately 1,000 students. In fact, the state school foundation aid per pupil in fiscal year 2006 was $2,592. This fiscal year, that number has dropped to $2,208.

The 2009 and 2011 biennium budgets both included deep cuts to school funding and we will be watching this year's process closely.

While the future of state school funding is unclear, what is clear is that our community wants a great value. We listened to residents and since 2008, we have eliminated $19.6 million in spending. Everyone -- teachers, administrators and staff -- has shared in the sacrifice by accepting wage freezes and paying more for their health-care premiums, thus saving the district $9.6 million over three years.

Hilliard City Schools has reduced and reallocated existing staff members to save an additional $1 million a year and has contracted for shared services for substitutes for an additional $150,000 in savings.

We have reduced energy consumption through energy-efficient enhancement projects and reduced our printing costs by moving more paper items online. These include student handbooks, course catalogs and interim progress reports for grades 6-12.

At Hilliard City Schools, we are listening to our community, providing a sound yet conservative financial forecast and being stingy with our resources.

We are honoring our commitment to the community to make the November 2011 operating dollars last three fiscal years.

We also are watching the Statehouse to make sure your voice is heard and are thankful for the support this community has already demonstrated.

Brian Wilson is treasurer for the Hilliard City Schools.