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The successful August 2016 bond issues for the Bartlesville Public Schools were motivated primarily by repeated shortfalls in state funding in early 2016. Repeated cuts in state funding since 2008 had led to a reduction in the district fund balance from 15% to below 6%, a level too low to ensure it could cover its December payroll as it awaited receipt of property tax revenues in January.
So for the 2016-2017 school year, the district cut 5% of its teachers and additional administrators and support staff to address the continued loss of revenue from the state. But the district wisely did not trust that the state economy would improve nor that the legislature and governor would adequately fund public education and other state services. Since state leaders had failed to address school funding shortfalls since 2008, the district decided to seek help from local voters.
LOCAL VOTERS SHOW THEIR SUPPORT
The district went to voters in August 2016, asking them to increase local property taxes in order to shift at least $700,000 in additional annual operating expenses from the district's general fund to bond funds. The district projected that 15 or more teaching positions could be preserved from future cuts by this action. Local voters overwhelmingly approved, with 70% and 73% voting YES on two bond issues.
MORE STATE REVENUE FAILURES
During the current school year, the state has again had revenue failures in both its general fund and in dedicated funding sources for public schools. Preston Birk, the district's Chief Financial Officer, reported on 3/20/2017 to the Bartlesville Board of Education that the district is down $380,000 in state appropriated revenue from the already dismal funding from the prior year. At the current pace, he projected the district might be losing an additional $750,000 in state funding over the entire 2016-2017 school year.
BOND ISSUES ARE HELPING PREVENT ADDITIONAL TEACHER CUTS
The good news is that the district is currently NOT planning on any reduction in teachers nor an increase in average class sizes for 2017-2018 despite the continued reduction in state funding. The shifting of expenses to the bond issues is clearly a key reason for that happy outcome, along with additional administrative streamlining for 2017-2018 and the staffing cuts already implemented in 2016-2017.
FUND BALANCE SLOWLY RECOVERING
Mr. Birk reported that, with the staffing cuts and shifting of expenses to bond funds, the fund balance is projected to be at or above the minimum safe 7% level by the end of the fiscal year. Hopefully it might approach 8%.
YOUR SCHOOLS NEED HELP FROM YOUR STATE GOVERNMENT
Oklahoma is in an education funding crisis. Teacher salaries are so low that Bartlesville and other districts statewide are unable to find certified teachers for all open positions, even with large staffing cuts.
District operating revenues are so low that the district has had to ask voters to raise local property taxes to make up for the massive reductions in state funding. If, as projected, the district loses another $750,000 in state funding by the end of this school year, that will exceed the operational expense shifts provided by the bond issues. So the remaining loss and any additional future cuts will have to be borne by past and future staffing cuts.
Bartlesville voters can be proud that their support is why their district has some of the lowest average class sizes among the state's large 6A districts. But until there is a change in attitude and support for schools in state government, the district will continue to be unable to find enough certified teachers to fill open positions. And if funding shortfalls are not addressed, eventually the district will be forced to cut more teachers and raise class sizes further.
EDUCATION LEGISLATIVE FORUM ON APRIL 7
Our local legislators - Rep. Earl Sears, Rep. Travis Dunlap, and Sen. Julie Daniels - have graciously agreed to participate in an Education Legislative Forum on Friday, April 7 from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Fine Arts Center Auditorium at Bartlesville High School. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. We particularly hope that parents and grandparents who are able to attend will turn out and participate.
The Bartlesville Board of Education approved a plan to further streamline administrative positions for the 2017-2018 school year at its meeting on February 20, 2017. Four administrative positions will be eliminated at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and two new positions created in a consolidation and reorganization of the district’s athletics and high school administration. As part of the process, four administrators currently occupying the eliminated positions will be non-reemployed at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. The affected administrators are eligible to apply for the two newly created positions and other open positions in the district.
The board approved the elimination of the position of Director of Athletics at the end of the current school year. Tim Bart occupies that position and was head coach of the high school varsity boys basketball team from 2000-2014. He has been the district’s Director of Athletics since 2011. A new position of Director of Athletics & Activities will be created and filled, adding responsibility over school activities to the current athletic director functions.
The board also approved the elimination of the position of Assistant Director of Athletics at the end of the current school year. Terry Hughes has occupied that position since 2012. He coached sports and taught social studies for many years at Madison Middle School. The Assistant Director of Athletics position became a full-time administrator position in 2013. The board also approved the elimination of the position of Bruin Academy Dean at the end of the current school year. Josh Waddell was hired in 2016 for that new position, overseeing the 9-12 alternative high school program housed in Custer Stadium. A new combined position of Bruin Academy Principal and Assistant Director of Athletics will be created and filled.
The board also approved the elimination of one of the four Assistant Principal positions at Bartlesville High School. Jennifer Stahl occupies the Assistant Principal position that is being reduced. She was hired as an assistant principal at Bartlesville Mid-High in 2012 and transitioned to the current campus in 2015. The duties of the eliminated position will be absorbed into the duties of the remaining assistant principals and principal at the high school.
Bartlesville Superintendent of Schools Chuck McCauley recommended the changes with great regret, citing how state aid money for the district is falling short of projections with two state revenue shortfalls this school year on top of multiple revenue shortfalls in the prior school year. The streamlining will reduce annual district expenditures by approximately $160,000, adding to $292,000 in annual savings created by the elimination of three central office administrative positions for the the 2016-2017 school year. Supt. McCauley stated that the employees associated with the positions being eliminated have done nothing wrong and the changes are based on financial circumstances. He has noted that passage of a bond issue in August 2016 is helping the district, as intended, to shift expenses and avoid cuts in teaching staff.
Supt. McCauley indicated he does not anticipate other significant personnel reductions will be needed. Pointing out that the district has been planning since the spring of 2016 to add an Executive Director of Technology & Communications in July 2017, he said he expects additional technology-related staffing increases will be needed to successfully implement a multi-year 1:1 computing initiative. That program is one of the district budget priorities for 2017-2018, along with rebuilding the district fund balance, protecting existing programs, expanding STEM curricula into the elementary schools, and recruiting and retaining talented teachers by maintaining class sizes, providing salary increases, and improving school culture.Periodic updates on the district’s budget development process are being posted on the district's website at bps-ok.org under Budget Development in the Quick Links.
Bartlesville Public Schools
District Budget Priorities for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year
Some additional administrative positions will be eliminated and restructured for the 2017-2018 fiscal year to streamline district operations. It is NOT anticipated that other significant personnel reductions will be needed. The district’s budget priorities for the 2017-2018 fiscal year include:
The budget for the Bartlesville Public School District for the 2017-2018 fiscal year is currently under development. A Budget Development Committee began monthly meetings in January to develop a budget that will be recommended in the spring to the Board of Education for its consideration. A final budget will not be adopted by the Board until early June, after the state legislative session is over and its impact on district finances can be assessed.
Superintendent McCauley's goal is to be as transparent as possible as the Committee works through the process, while respecting the privacy of various personnel issues that inevitably arise with staffing changes.
The district positions represented on the district Budget Development Committee are the same as they have been for almost two decades, although over time the people occupying those positions have of course changed. The 2017 committee members are:
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