BPS Parents, Community, and Staff:
Yesterday two shots to the gut of our school's budget were made known to me:
1. The state has declared a second "revenue failure," meaning the state is not going to collect as much revenue as originally budgeted to collect.
2. The impact of the $1.3 billion the legislature has available to appropriate next year (for the 2016-17 school year) will be painful. In fact, it will be much more painful than the cuts experienced this year.
The second revenue failure declared by the state is bad. In fact this failure is worse than the first back in January. January's failure created a reduction of 3% to state agencies (including the State Dept. of Education). The current failure will result in an additional 4% reduction to state agencies for the current year.
The reduction of state aid to schools as a result of the first revenue failure was mitigated and reduced by Joy Hoffmeister as the State Department reduced internal allocations to other programs before taking money away from the school funding formula. We are fortunate she did that. The effective reduction of state aid to the formula for schools was about $23 per weighted student (WADM).
This latest revenue failure will require Joy Hoffmeister and the State Department to make further reductions to state aid. I doubt Joy will be able to take funds away from other Department budgets this time. Therefore, I believe the the state aid formula will be the victim of the full force and effect of the second revenue failure. What does this mean? I believe the reduction of funds available to the state aid formula will result in a reduction in state aid to schools in the range of $45 to $62 per WADM.
The math: the WADM for BPS is, at present, 8,767.41 students.
First Revenue Failure (Math teachers like it when one shows his work):
$23 Reduction in State Aid per WADM
Yes, that's correct. The first revenue failure in January resulted in $201,650.43 less revenue for Bixby Public Schools, And, yes, you guessed it: we had budgeted to receive that money. And, yes, again, logic flows that we indeed had to cut the equivalent amount from our budget.
The range for the state aid reduction from the second revenue failure above is rather large: $45 to $62 per student. Why so large? I believe this range will be impacted by what the Department does with the FBA (a teacher's health insurance) obligation. The second revenue failure has resulted in a 4% reduction. The Department must address all financial obligations, and FBA is certainly one of those obligations. If they reduce the FBA payments to Districts, the formula output will result in less of a cut to state aid. If they continue to fully fund FBA, the formula output will result in more of a cut to state aid. Either way, we are getting less irregardless of what the Department does with FBA. The District must fund the full cost of our employees' health insurance cost. The District is left "holding the bag" so to speak if the state fails to fully fund a teacher's insurance. The District must pick up the uncovered cost.
Second Revenue Failure
$45 Reduction in State Aid per WADM Low Range
$62 Reduction in State Aid per WADM High Range
I know. I know! These are HUGE numbers. We should know by the end of next week the actual numbers and the manner in which the Department is going to run the numbers. However, it is painfully obvious that the cuts will be severe. This round of cuts will bring our total year-to-date cuts to somewhere between $596,183.88 to $745,229.85.
Managing the cuts in state aid and therefore to the BPS budget has included the following:
1. Hiring Freeze: For vacated or unfilled positions in the District that do not directly serve the classroom, we are not filling the positions. For example, these include categories of support positions, such as maintenance, transportation, child nutrition areas and the like. Replacing vacated or unfilled certified positions has been analyzed on an individual basis.
2. Cutting non-salary expenditures and protecting the classroom: All areas of spending not related to personnel costs have been analyzed and subject to reductions. Expenditures reduced or cut include travel, professional development, supplies, equipment, and materials. School site general fund budgets have been cut. The latest round of asking parents to supply copy paper, tissue, and anti-bacterial wipes for classrooms is an example of us looking for ways to not spend money on supplies and materials. A load of copy paper for the District, for example, is about $25,000.
What's next with cuts?
With about 89% of the District's expenditures dedicated to personnel costs, the amount of cuts to non-personnel-related costs is finite. No matter the need for cuts, we must pay utilities, insurance, and fuel, for example. In other words, a large amount of non-personnel related costs simply cannot be cut. It's inevitable, therefore, that further reductions in state aid to BPS will/shall/must come from personnel related costs.
How about next year?
It has been certified that the amount of money available for appropriation from the state for next year will be $1.3 billion less than this year. Exactly what that means for state aid to schools and specifically to a state aid reduction to BPS is yet to be determined. The best guess I can give at this moment is this: prepare for a $100 to $300 per WADM reduction in state aid. A conservative estimate at this point is $200 per WADM. Folks, that's a reduction for BPS of over $1.7 million. Our cuts for next year will hurt.
It's a gut shot!
Though it pains me to no end to write the following, I must: Class sizes in BPS will go up next year. There will be more students and fewer teachers per student. We will make cuts. There will be administrative cost cuts such as cuts to administration salaries. No additional staff will be hired. We will shift some certified personnel currently not assigned to the classroom back to the classroom. Fewer and fewer services will be available to students, parents, and staff. There is simply no way to prevent cuts given the realities of the funding reductions from the state.
What can you do?
The coming funding year is not in the books yet. There is still time to change the future. There are many things that can be done to reduce fiscal cuts to schools. Some legislators and others are attempting to provide solutions. Others seem to be in the way of solutions. I encourage you to get involved in the legislative process, to contact your legislators, to let your opinions be known. On March 10th at 6:00 p.m., the BPS PTA and Classroom Teachers are hosting an legislative forum at the BHS Auditorium. I encourage parents and community members to attend this meeting to learn more about the goings-on in Oklahoma City and what all of us can do to impact positive change. Also, a rally for education at the Capitol is planned for 3/15/16, the Tuesday of Spring Break, to send a clear message that we expect more from our legislative leaders. I encourage you to attend both of these events.
Dr. Kyle Wood
Bixby Public Schools