And so it starts…
A year ago at this time, we were just beginning to learn the depths of our state’s revenue failure. The state had declared a revenue failure, which began a series of cuts for school districts everywhere. It’s not just that we knew we’d have less money for the following school year; no, we had to make cuts right away.
I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Today, superintendents around Oklahoma had a serious sense of déjà vu.
In case you can’t read the image, it’s a memo from Superintendent Hofmeister letting us know of a funding shortfall (which is different than a revenue failure). Here’s the key part:
Based on the December revenue collections, the 1017 Fund is approximately $11.7 million or 3.5 percent below the estimate. The total January deposits are approximately $9.7 million short of the funds needed to make the scheduled payment in full.
At this time, for payment purposes, instead of reallocating State Aid Allocations statewide, we will reduce the percentage of payment based on available cash.
- For Financial Support of Schools (State Aid formula funding), we are only able to pay 8.47 percentthis month instead of the scheduled 9 percent (a 0.53 percent payment reduction).
- The January accumulated percentageof the latest allocation is 53.47 percent.
- To calculate your state aid payment, multiply the accumulated percentage by the most recent allocation and then subtract the amount paid to date. The result is the amount of payment for each month.
- The effective date for the January payment remains Thursday, January 12, 2017.
- At this time, all other line items continue to be paid at the scheduled accumulated percentage.
We will continue to look at each month’s cash revenue and re-evaluate our course of action on a monthly basis.
School districts receive 11 monthly state aid payments. They are uneven. There is no July payment. The August payment is eight percent of the overall state aid. September and May are ten percent. The other months are nine percent.
Wait, that’s a lot of numerical verbiage. Let me try it in a table.
|Month||% of State Aid Received||Month||% of State Aid Received|
For the first six months of this fiscal year, we received the payments we expected to receive. The memo today tells us our January payment will be short.
It will be on time, but it will be short. The shortage will be different for each district, but our payment will be about $281,000 less than we were expecting.
And that’s just January. We don’t know if this fund will be short again next month, or maybe every month for the rest of the fiscal year.
And we don’t know about other funds.
And we don’t know if the state will declare revenue failure again this year.
What I know is that we cut over $5 million from our budget this year and elimnated about 100 jobs. Yet somehow, we’re still taking on water.
That’s why I hate the question, “How can school districts save money?” We’re already doing that. And the people who work for us are busy exploring their options.
At the semester, we had a teacher leave us to take a job in a correctional facility. That’s the most re-tweeted tweet I’ve ever tweeted. Apparently that struck a nerve with people. It did with me. That’s why I tweeted it.
It also struck a nerve when the editorial writers at the Oklahoman tried to make sense of Rep. Kevin Calvey’s press release about Superintendent Hofmeister’s budget request. Their synthesis only made things worse.
Bureaucrats seldom volunteer to embrace efficiency and often resort to doomsday rhetoric when changes to the status quo are proposed. The problems noted with the Department of Education’s budget request won’t be unique among state agencies.
Whether we volunteered for it or not, whether we’re embracing it or not, we’re becoming more efficient. As for the doomsday rhetoric, I’ll refer you to today’s memo and to the teacher leaving us for a correctional facility.
Teachers want raises. They also want to have manageable class sizes. Oh, and they want current instructional materials. Technology that works would be nice too. It’s the little things.
Today, I don’t feel like blaming anyone. I don’t feel like calling out particular politicians who I think have contributed to a climate in which all functions of state government are suffering.
I also don’t feel like being told we need to be more efficient.
A few legislators get it.
A few isn’t enough. Today, we bleed a little more. Next month? I don’t want to think about that yet. I’m just waiting on the weather to possibly give us another four-day week.
One way or another, we have to make ends meet, right?