Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė October 30, 2006

Marc A. Schare

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First, I want to thank Jonathan for all of his hard work. Tonight, we meet, just one day before the statutory deadline, to approve a new five year forecast. Ideally, the forecast we approve would be the result of a process that included input by the Treasurerís Advisory Committee, vetting by that committee and intense scrutiny by the finance committee of the Board of Education and ultimately, the entire Board and the public. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

 

To understand why, I want to lay out a timeline. The Treasurerís advisory met in late September to start discussing details of the forecast. The Board of Education received a preliminary version of the document just one week ago. The finance committee, Ms. Best and I, met with the Treasurer last Wednesday to discuss policy issues that were imbedded in the forecast, however, the Treasurer did not believe he should make adjustments without approval from the entire board. Indeed, we all received a *final* version of this document, complete with notes, on Friday Evening. The document does reflect input from the Treasurerís Advisory Committee, however, that group received a copy of the completed forecast for the first time on Friday, with no time to provide meaningful input, either as to either the assumptions or the raw numbers. With no ability to make changes before the statutory deadline, either by the Treasurerís Advisory or the finance committee, it appears that the administration is expecting this forecast to be rubber stamped.

 

Since Iím not a rubber stamp kind of guy, I went to the Ohio Revised Code and looked at what might happen if we do not approve the forecast tonight. Here is the penalty:

 

5705.391(B)  The state board of education, in accordance with sections 3319.31 and 3319.311 [3319.31.1] of the Revised Code, may limit, suspend, or revoke a license as defined under section 3319.31 of the Revised Code that has been issued to any school employee found to have willfully contributed erroneous, inaccurate, or incomplete data required for the submission of the five-year projection required by this section. 


 

Since not submitting the forecast would constitute ďincompleteĒ data, this is not an option. We must submit a forecast and therefore, I will be voting in favor of this forecast solely because the penalties for not submitting a forecast are more serious than the damage that may be caused by submitting a forecast which has not been vetted by anyone on the board or in the community and therefore, may or may not reflect our thinking, our values or the wishes of the community.

 

That said, in my cursory review of the forecast, there is a lot to like. Expenses out of the general fund this year will be fairly flat, a remarkable achievement given average salary increases of 5.15% to certified staff and 5.4% to classified staff. Another surprise is that the general fund balance, even including the new contingency that we will add, is positive clear through the 2009-2010 fiscal year. This implies that it may be possible to delay an operating levy all the way out until 2008. Iím in no way suggesting that this is the right thing to do, only that this new forecast suggests it is possible.

 

All of this good news does not overshadow the requirement for this forecast to be scrutinized to the detail that the community expects. Speaking for me, I have questions about approximately two dozen different line items. I therefore propose the following. Regardless of the outcome of tonightís vote, the Treasurerís Advisory will meet in November after having sufficient time to review the forecast and the assumptions. In addition, the board, either individually,as a whole or through its finance committee, will discuss the forecast with the treasurer and the advisory and report back on November 27. Finally, the outcome of our bond levy will play a role in determining the final numbers.We will then vote to approve a new forecast at either our November 27 or December 13 meetings. Despite our vote this evening, it is my hope that each of us affirms to the community our commitment for budgetary scrutiny and public involvement through the Treasurerís advisory.

 

Some say that the 5 year forecast has little meaning and Iíve been privately urged to not make a big deal about this. I respectfully disagree. The five year forecast has historically been the single document that district critics look at when they criticize us for whatever it is they will criticize us for, so it is a big deal. At the end of the day, the new forecast, after review and debate, might look exactly as it does now, or it could be very different, but the community will have confidence that this board will not be rubber stamping a document with a 5 year expenditure of half a billion dollars any time soon. Thanks for your indulgence.