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'Picture Rockwood' Feedback to be Presented Thursday

Part 2: Get sneak preview of new findings prior to presentation to Rockwood School District's board of directors Thursday evening. Administrators say district still will be in deficit spending for FY 2014. Safety needs top list of patron support.

Editor's Note:  Part 1 of this article previously was published this week as 'Picture Rockwood' Feedback Summarized. That article highlighted findings based on telephone surveys conducted last month. This article continues with other information classified as "key findings" from the entire community engagement process began in September.

Picture Rockwood co-chairs will present their recommendations during Thursday's (Jan. 10) Board of Education directors' meeting. The qualitative and quantitative feedback indicated the community-at-large is not ready to move forward with all of the district's stated priorities, but the current focus is on some of the priorities.

Rockwood School District Finances' Summary Points from Monday's Public Session:

Due to continued review and analysis of budget assumptions during the last few months, it was determined there are more funds available than originally projected (approximately $16 million in fiscal year 2013 reserves above the board's policy level of 18 percent). Even though more funds are available than originally forecast, without continued cuts to programs and services—or additional revenue via an increased tax levy or other sources—Rockwood still will be in a deficit spending mode for fiscal year 2014.

Rockwood's chief financial officer Tim Rooney told Patch this week that during the community engagement process, a projected deficit in fiscal year 2014 of $5.1 million was discussed, and "that has not changed." 

"During the track 1 budget process, we identified a budget target. It included the $5.1 million projected deficit and included other items that are not currently budgeted. This includes costs related to the new common core curriculum, professional development to support the curriculum and student assessment and some funds for preventative maintenance and technology that were formerly paid from bond issues. That raised the overall budget target to $10.9 million and, during Track 1, we identified budget reductions to accommodate that budget target," said Rooney.

He said the $16 million figure is in reference to fund balances. The board has a policy to maintain fund balances at 18 to 22 percent of the annual operating expenditures. "This allows the district to pay its bills between July and December when a major source of revenue (local property taxes) is received."

Rooney said by the end of the fiscal 2013 school year, district administrators anticipate the balances to be in excess of this amount. "We expect an ending 6/30/2013 balance that is $16 million above the 18 percent target and $7.9 million above the 22 percent."

"It is important to understand that the district will need to get revenues and expenditures in sync at some point," Rooney said. "The issue is whether to use a portion of fund balances to delay the implementation of some reductions. That was the point of the slide at the last CES (community engagement session) meeting."

He said others argue that Rockwood needs to maintain balances above the 18 to 22 percent target, because the district has no other adequate resource to pay for maintenance of buildings and technology at this time.  

If a bond issue is successful, it will have two effects, said Rooney:

  1. There will be more support for using a portion of the fund balances to delay some of the operating budget reductions.
  2. The budget target of $10.9 million includes $3.5 million of costs that would be paid by the bond issue. That would lower the budget reduction needed to meet the budget target.

Discussions about Rockwood's budgets will continue until the board of directors approve the budget in June.

Key Findings from Patrons' Feedback:

Only 17 percent of telephone respondents believe Rockwood needs additional revenue to operate the district in the future. They favored "cuts to staff and programs" rather than a tax increase to balance the budget.

Questions about two hypothetical tax increase propositions received a resounding "no," with 66 percent oppose and 73 percent oppose.

"Maintaining and continually improving facilities" resonated favorably with respondents, as did technology initiatives.

A total of 64 percent of respondents said they would support a "no-tax rate increase" bond issue.

Overall Recommendations Anticipated to be Offered Thursday Evening:

  1. Use available reserves to aid in balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget.
  2. Continue to identify and implement appropriate cost-saving measures.
  3. Place a no-tax rate increase bond issue on the April 2013 ballot, focusing on safety initiatives, technology and facility maintenance and improvements. Providing funds for facilities and technology from the bond issue allows district administrators to allocated potential dollars in the operating budget to begin to accomplish priorities identified in the Picture Rockwood program.
  4. Immediately announce the lawful and best practice procedures the district will have in place to seek requests for proposals and selection of a construction manager program, if the bond issue is placed on the ballot.
  5. Create and implement an intensive education and communication plan to continue discussions among Rockwood constituents regarding the importance of the priorities that have been identified by Picture Rockwood.

Potential Bond Issue Project List:  SAFETY ($5,020,000)

  • Update security cameras
  • Add 200 more security cameras
  • Upgrade public address systems
  • Provide generator back-up for phone systems
  • Install visitor/identification system
  • Install new locking system for interior classroom doors
  • Update fire sprinkling system
  • Provide safety modifications, including constructing visitor check-in centers at all schools, constructing a perimeter fence or wall at Eureka High School, reconfiguring or renovating Rockwood Summit High School front entrance and cafeteria.

Potential Bond Issue Project List: TECHNOLOGY ($9,355,000)

  • Replace obsolete computers
  • Maintain current projection devices, interactive whiteboard (SMART boards) and amplification systems
  • Replace aged network equipment and switches and upgrade server storage areas
  • Upgrade network wiring

Potential Bond Issue Project List:  FACILITIES ($19,732,000)

  • Preventive maintenance districtwide (roofs, flooring, equipment, paving, electrical systems)
  • Replace Eureka High School locker rooms to accommodate usage and meet ADA requirements
  • Renovate the existing kitchen/cafeteria space at Eureka Elementary School

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