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'Find Me the Money' in Rockwood

What cost-cutting steps will be chosen for Rockwood School District now that the Proposition R $43.2M bond measure failed to pass in Tuesday's election? Are the district's gold standards in jeopardy?

Educating students is one of the most important challenges faced by every community in the United States right now, especially when it comes to financing all options people want for children. While a 54 percent majority of Rockwood School District voters supported the $43.2 million Proposition R in Tuesday's election, it fell short of the state’s requirement of 57.14 percent for passage of a bond issue. The deficit in voters was projected to be about 400.

See related article from Tuesday night:

With being approximately the third largest district in Missouri and one of the biggest in the United States, many people now are focused on how Rockwood representatives and taxpayers will creatively tackle a significant budget shortfall. With 22,201 students, the district services 682 acres, making it the largest in St. Louis County.

Rockwood voters have been asked a dozen times in the past 20 years to pass similar 'no tax increase' bond measures. District officials said the last time a bond measure failed was the 2005 Proposition W. It was for $44.5 million, and it didn't pass by 230 votes. However, another measure, Proposition K, was passed the following year in 2006.

As covered in detail by Patch for the past year, was established to provide funding in technology, safety measures and infrastructure or maintenance of current facilities. The district has 35 buildings throughout 150 square miles, resulting in 3.6 million square feet of school facilities. It stands to reason all this infrastructure requires a little love and care throughout the years, but how to plan for that maintenance became a key question and debate these past couple of months.

View the entire list of proposed projects to be covered by Proposition R funds as a reminder by clicking here.

This year's bond was recommended by Rockwood's Facilities Committee, which is comprised of district staff, parents and patrons. from the district's Technology and Finance Committees regarding recommendations and priorities.

This week, district spokespeople were quick to remind everyone the needs of the school district do not go away, just because a bond issue did not pass.

What Next Steps Should Be Expected?

Rockwood officials promptly established an online forum this week to solicit patrons' comments by asking:  What suggestions do you have for addressing the safety, technology, heavy maintenance and infrastructure needs of Rockwood schools? To log your answers or ideas, click here.

Before answering the online survey, it might be helpful to review the safety improvements for playgrounds, fields, fire alarm systems and electrical systems identified in this lengthy budgeting process, as well as maintenance needs for roofing, masonry and heating and air conditioning units. With the first Rockwood school being built in 1934, all the district's buildings range from 30 to 80 years old.

Pure maintenance needs will be among the first task the district's representatives will have to determine how to cover. "We always have to be sure we can turn on the air-conditioning in August and count on it when school is scheduled to start," said Rockwood Board of Education President Janet Strate. "Those day-to-day issues that affect students, teachers and staff are always front and center in our minds."

For a school or building-specific list regarding proposed projects under the proposition, click here.

Strate told Patch the district's board of directors again would solicit input from Rockwood's various committees, to combine with the feedback they receive from parents, patrons and other districts' representatives.

Editor's Note:  Thanks to the many, many Patch readers who this week shared their perspectives about Rockwood finances in the previous Patch article:  Rockwood Voters Reject School Bond Measure. Regardless of whether readers supported or opposed Proposition R, there were plenty of good ideas and viewpoints offered. We plan to dissect those and offer up some patterns for further considerations. Thanks for all your feedback there—keep the concepts flowing. Rockwood officials have indicated they are monitoring your feedback on Patch.

Michael Rhodes April 06, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I sound like a broken record, but here goes again. With 80%+ of the operating budget tied directly to staff salary expense it stands to reason cuts will have to made to staff. The district’s current operating budget is just shy of $300 million (this includes bond amounts which is about $100m). So, there is $200m to cut from with about $150m being salary related. If, as other posters who voted against the bond issue have stated, cutting teachers is not the answer it leaves about $50m to work with. The district asked for $43m to cover what was considered the highest priority items. This list was paired down from a “wish’ list that topped $100m. With a $2 to $3m shortfall already projected it will need to be decided how to pay for some of the items that cannot be put off (safety was the example given). To make it easy let’s start off finding $10m. That will cover the short fall and $7.5m (or 17% of the bond items).
Michael Rhodes April 06, 2012 at 07:42 PM
2012 costs listed here: Building Admin is $14m Building Maintenance and Utilities is $24m Transportation is $9m General Admin and Support is $9m Quick answer would be to cut 20% from each of the above areas saving $11.2m. Keep in mind that is cutting staff in all those areas. Job lose could exceed 200 positions (based on a $60k year cost per position) with in Rockwood and at the transportation company.
Michael Rhodes April 07, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Anyone? RS for RS I know you all had suggestions to bridge the budget gap. This is a great way to share that information with the public. I know Mr. Brown reads these posts and am sure he will make note of any suggestions made here for further investigation.
Michael Rhodes April 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Won't save a ton of money how about adjusting the tempature in all buildings down a degree or two in winter and up a degree or two in the summar? Not so much that the buildings become uncomfortable.
Michael Rhodes April 07, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Transportation costs I am sure will be up this year based solely on fuel costs. I know the district reviews the routes to maximize them at the start of the school year. Do they review them at the half way point to make sure they are still optimal? I don't like the idea of changing a childs bus or schedule half way through the year, but they might be some cost savings there as well. Only if it make sense though. Just because they may be a small savings if the hassle caused by the change is to great don't do it.
Michael Rhodes April 07, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Hate to make this suggestion as I think educatiors are under paid for what they do. Could the district look at passing on some of the benefits cost to the educators. St. City Public Schools started using a tiered benefit option where the educators could pick how much coverage they want (example is co-pays were $10 for one plan that the educator paid a part of the premium or $20 co-pay plan that educators did not contribute to the premium at all).
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) April 07, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Solid, creative thoughts, @Michael Rhodes. Your common-sense approach and critical thinking on behalf of all of Rockwood School District is appreciated.

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