Board Adopts 2013-2014 Budget Plan

Post date: Jun 1, 2013 4:11:41 AM

May 31, 2013

Report by Granger Meador, BEA Chief Negotiator

The Bartlesville Board of Education adopted a 2013-2014 budget plan at its meeting on May 31, 2013. The budget plan will take a larger bite out of the still-healthy fund balance. As the only teacher on the Superintendent's Budget Development Committee, I supported some, but not all, of the additional items approved by the board in the adopted budget.

BUDGET WILL IMPROVE TEACHER SALARIES,

BUT MOST REMAIN BELOW PEER AVERAGES

The budget includes the first part of a three-phase plan to make Bartlesville teacher salaries more competitive with peer districts while eventually bringing the teacher work day up to the typical 7 hour 30 minute level from its current 7 hour 15 minute duration.

A 15-minute increase in the work day is a 1.03% increase, which would correspond to a $1365 increase in average teacher pay. The budget provides a $450 across-the-board raise for teachers above the normal step increase for experience, which is proportional to a 5-minute increase in the work day. Similar increases in coming years will require more unrestricted funding from the state.

Click the graph below to see a visual comparison of Bartlesville's 2012-13 salary schedule to the peer average:

Granger Meador
Existing salary schedule graph

Click the next graph to see how a $450 across-the-board raise beyond the step affects the salary schedule:

2013-2014 Salary Schedule Graph

64% of the teachers are on the BS salary lanes, and most of those will still be below the prior year's peer average in 2013-14, especially when our schedule ends at step 25 while most others extend beyond that level:

Pe

STATE FUNDING STILL FALLS SHORT

In 2012-2013 the district will likely have reduced its fund balance by approximately $500,000. The state legislature increased public school funding this session, but the funding is still far below 2008 levels. In fact, the Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that:

  • Common education is slated to receive 33.8 percent of appropriations, down from 34.4 percent in FY 2013 and 35.3 percent in FY 2012.
  • Common education will receive the lowest share of the budget since at least FY 2000.
  • State formula funding for public schools remains $213 million below FY 2008 levels, even as enrollment has increased by more than 30,000 students.

Consequently the adopted budget will take a much larger chunk out of the fund balance, especially when magnified by the loss of property tax revenue due to State Question 766 and a 40-student drop in overall enrollment which will affect the mid-term adjustment in early 2014.

ADDED BUDGET ITEMS I SUPPORT

The chart below details the new line item costs added to the budget:

Added Budget Items

The first added items in the budget includes reasonable salary increases, given that our district salaries are below peer averages while we outperform all of them academically. Below is a breakdown of that cost (click to enlarge):

Salary Increases

Next come various added operational costs of about $146,000 (click to enlarge):

Operations

After that are some costs shifted out of federal funding due to the federal sequestration, funding for an additional teacher of English Language Learners to address that growing student population, and the cost of retaining one School Resource Officer paid for by the district since late 2012 (another is paid for by the city).

ADDED BUDGET ITEMS I CONSIDER PROBLEMATIC

I support all of the above increases. However, the budget adopted by the board then funded about $500,000 in additional positions which I consider imprudent in light of the expected "burn rate" of the fund balance. If these additional positions are to endure beyond 2013-2014 and we are to implement later phases of the plan to improve our non-competitive teacher salaries, we must successfully lobby our legislators for additional unrestricted public school funding for 2014-2015 and beyond. Further unwise state income tax cuts the legislature passed in 2013 will take effect in the coming years, worsening the problem.

The budget includes funding for six new reading teachers, one at each of the elementary schools. Those teachers will work with students in K-3 who are below grade level in reading. Despite a concerted effort to get all students on grade level, we still have approximately 6-10% of students below grade level at the end of 3rd grade. This is not surprising given the increasing level of poverty among our student population. Legislation passed by our own Senator Ford will force such students to be retained in 3rd grade in coming years. The board considers the additional reading teachers to be an expensive district-wide pilot project. I consider the cost excessive given the uncertain outcome and grim budget forecast for the coming years.

The adopted budget then goes on to restore a "Success 101" teacher at the Mid-High and two social studies teachers at the middle schools. Those positions, along with others in science not being restored in this budget, had been cut in previous years of continuing state funding losses. Given the lack of corresponding increases in state funding, I would not have added back those positions yet.

Finally, the adopted budget funds a laundry list of items for extracurricular activities. Two additional vocal music teacher assistants in the middle schools would address increasing class sizes in those programs. More money is also budgeted to cover transportation and other costs in athletics and music currently funded out of activity funds. I would prefer to continue to rely on activity funds for those costs until state funding improves. If extracurricular activity sponsors do not wish to use activity funds for such costs, they could reduce their travel accordingly. In these lean times I do not feel it is wise or sustainable to shift more extracurricular costs to the general fund.

If the state does not provide significant increases in unrestricted public school funding in 2014 and beyond, in coming years we will be cutting many of the positions being added for 2013-14 and making additional cuts to reduce the burn rate of the district fund balance. It also will be very difficult to improve our salaries versus our peers unless we increase class sizes in our elementary schools, which are currently significantly below that of our peers. The consequent negative impact on academic performance is undesirable, especially in light of the new 3rd grade reading retention mandate. But we must improve our salaries if we are to attract and retain teachers who can continue our district's tradition of academic excellence. This quandary is a direct consequence of inadequate state funding.