Stephen Bell Elementary
Stephen Bell Elementary

Grades K-2

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Bell Creek Intermediate
Bell Creek Intermediate

Grades 3-5

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Jake Andrew Chappars Memorial Play Place
Jake Andrew Chappars Memorial Play Place

Playground at Bell Creek Intermediate

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Stephen Bell Elementary
Stephen Bell Elementary

Grades K-2

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1/5

The State's Opinion Regarding the BSS Budget

This is our "CliffsNotes" version of the BSS budget review done by the Ohio State Auditor's office. The full report is located Here. We’re not experts and this is just our interpretation. If you have read the full report and believe we’ve misstated in our interpretation, please let us know. If you want to hear the breakdown directly from the experts, please watch either of the two videos below. The first is the representatives from the state auditor's office presenting to the Board of Education. The second is Dr. Cozad's and Mr. Liming's (the school treasurer) report on the audit.

The primary takeaway of this report for us is that BSS has little-to-no ‘fat’ to strip away. Continuing with that metaphor, without an additional revenue source, our schools will lose ‘muscle mass’, much like the human body does when there is no fat left to metabolize.

 

Before we get into the recommendations the auditor made, we’d like to point out the information he presented in the FUNDING section: 

 

  • There’s been a lot of growth in the student body recently, and the state will give BSS a little bit of extra money to account for the rapid addition of children to the school population. (Paragraph 1)

  • HB920 is alive and kicking BSS’ financial backside. (Paragraph 2)

  • Bellbrook-Sugarcreek residents, as an average, are paying a smaller percentage of their total income to support the schools than what is average for the state. This goes back to the recognition that we are, collectively, a wealthy community. (Paragraph 3&4)

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  • If the 5.7 mil levy passes, it’ll keep BSS afloat for about 4 years, but without either more cuts or more money, by 2024 there will still be a deficit. This is why none of the existing cuts that have already been made will be coming back. The current levy is to keep the student body from losing MORE. (Paragraph 5&6)

After thoroughly examining BSS’ finances, the state auditor only found 12 additional ways for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools to save money. Now, these are recommendations, not a list of things BSS HAS to do. Our Superintendent and the BOE will make the final determination of cuts to reduce the budget, for now. 

 

Recommendation 1 – Google stops updating Chromebooks once they get older and so periodically they need to be replaced.  Don’t replace them for now. Just keep making it work with the old Chromebooks. This would remove an expected expense of $250,000 a year from the forecast.

 

Recommendation 2 – You need to be preemptively aware of the state your buildings are in so that you can budget ahead of time for repairs and replacements rather than dealing with issues when they arise. We sent someone in to go over the school’s structures and have made an educated guess as to what might become an issue in the next four years and how much those issues should cost to address. No immediate money saved, but hopefully efficiency will save something in the future.

 

Recommendation 3 – Stop helping cover the cost of extracurricular activities for students. Currently BSS pays more for these activities than comparative districts, but given BSS’ current financial deficit, the school should stop all funding. The savings would be $703,000 a year. The auditor suggests these options for BSS:

  • Increase pay to play participation fees

  • Increase activity admission fees

  • Increase booster club support

  • Reduce supplemental salary schedule

  • Eliminate activities

 

Recommendation 4 – 

  • These positions are considered ‘more’ than comparative school districts.

  • Cut either one full-time computer tech/IT person or reduce hours among all staff of this type to cut the equivalent of one full time computer tech/IT person.

  • Reduce a central office staff to half-time, or reduce enough hours among all staff of this type to drop a half-time worth of man-hours.

  • Would save the district $63,600 a year.

 

Recommendation 5 – 

  • These positions are considered ‘more’ than comparative school districts.

  • Reduce the full-time hours for a career-technical staff member (those who teach knowledge and abilities needed for occupational employment) by half or cut enough hours from this staff to equal a half-time reduction.

  • Cut one full-time counselor.

  • Reduce a librarian to half-time or cut multiple librarians hours to equal a half-time reduction in this staff.

  • Cut one full-time nurse and reduce another to part-time or reduce all hours among them to drop that many man-hours total. The auditor recognizes if this cut is made, buildings will have to share nursing staff.

  • These cuts would save a total of $325,600

 

Recommendation 6 – Renegotiate these items in the teacher/support staff contracts when the contracts are up because they are not legally required by law and so can be eliminated to save $196,800 annually.

  • Tuition reimbursement – all continuing education expenses would become solely an out of pocket expense for the staff. The amount given now is less than comparative districts, but the auditor says because it is not legally required it should be stopped.

  • LPDC Compensation – These are legally mandated jobs that the district had been paying people to do. Their compensation is less than comparable districts but, since they don’t legally have to provide compensation for the work, BSS should stop doing so.

  • Attendance incentive – The simple definition of which is, “If you don’t make us hire a sub more than once, we’ll give you a little bonus for saving us that money’ It’s lower than comparative districts already, but Auditor says this is not legally required and to stop doing it.

  • Mentor Teacher Compensation – The school was giving teachers who are willing to mentor student teachers a little extra to account for the extra work of the mentorship. This was already lower than comparative districts, but it’s not legally required so auditor says ditch it. 

  • Merit Pay – a bonus offered to the staff to encourage them to keep the state report card grade at an A or a B. Not offered by comparative districts, and not legally required, so eliminate it.

  • The following should also be looked at during renegotiations because they exceed state minimum requirements or comparable district averages: Sick Leave Accumulation, Severance Payout, Vacation Accrual, Paid Holidays, and Life Insurance.

 

Recommendation 7 – BSS’ cost for health and dental insurance is in line with Greene County school district averages but they should reduce how much they are paying for vision insurance. They’ll save $12,600 annually by bringing down how much BSS is paying for vision insurance to be comparable to the rest of Greene County School districts.

 

Recommendation 8 – There is no further way to outright save money in the transportation department. The cuts that were made were effective in trimming all ‘fat’ here. But the buses will need to be replaced eventually, some sooner than others, and it will be more cost efficient to create a plan of action to address the issue rather than dealing with the problem of bus failure when it occurs as soon as their financial situation has been handled.

 

Recommendation 9 – The Sugarcreek Elementary building is costing BSS money to maintain. Either BSS needs to increase what it charges to those who use the facility or it needs to sell the property once the contracts it has with those using the building expire. This would save the district $27,200

 

Recommendation 10 – The district fixes stuff when it needs to rather than having preventative maintenance performed. This should be corrected. They should be keeping tabs on all the equipment with regular checks and budgeting ahead of time for any foreseeable issues. No immediate money saved, but possible future savings.

 

Recommendation 11 – BSS needs to put together a manual defining how the school hires companies so that it’s the same process every time and that all services are obtained at the lowest possible price by either requesting quotes or utilizing competitive bidding. Essentially, stop hiring folks to just come in and fix something only when it breaks (see above) because they’re who you always call. Make sure that every contract gets the work done while costing the school as little as possible.

 

Recommendation 12 – The above recommendations are not enough. Without additional funding, $1.5 million a year would still need to be cut. The auditor made the following three suggestions and suggested BSS consider implementing one of them. 

  • Continue the current salary freeze through to 2024. Since BSS salaries are lower (there are two graphs to show this) than the comparable districts, this may be hard to implement and, if implemented, “the district would need to consider the ramifications of an indefinite pay freeze in relation to the ability to maintain qualified, tenured staff in the local job market.” This option would save $851,300 every year the freeze held, not enough to correct the funding issue.

  • BSS can reduce total full-time man-hours in every department by 10.5%. They currently have 186.84 full-time employee hours that they’re paying. They’d need to reduce that throughout all the staff to a total of 167.22 total full-time hours. This would save $1,512,000 every year the full-time hour reduction was maintained

  • They can cut 16 full-time teachers. This would save $1,467,800 a year. 

 

These are the Auditor’s final words on the subject of his recommendations, regarding these last three. “These options would eliminate the deficit in each year of the forecast, however each option could drastically change service levels within the District. BSLSD (Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District) leadership would need to review these options in order to determine what is in the best interest of the District’s constituents.”

 

Pages 26 to 31 explain the methods used, show data collected in charts, and explain what comparable districts are for the purposes of this audit.

 

Pages 32-34 are Dr. Cozad’s response to the Auditor.