Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2010

School board public hearing scheduled for tonight

A large crowd attended the October Baldwin School Board meeting. An even larger crowd is expected for tonight's public hearing, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Baldwin Junior High School auditorium.

A large crowd attended the October Baldwin School Board meeting. An even larger crowd is expected for tonight's public hearing, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Baldwin Junior High School auditorium.

November 11, 2010

Tonight is the chance for Baldwin School District patrons to voice their opinions about elementary school consolidation.

With a large crowd expected at tonight’s Baldwin School Board public hearing, Superintendent Paul Dorathy wanted to give some instructions to patrons, while presenting facts about the proposal to close Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools.

The public hearing will start at 7 p.m. in the Baldwin Junior High School auditorium. Construction on the new performing arts center has blocked the north BJHS entrance, so entry is on the east side near the teacher parking lot.

Anyone wanting to speak at the public hearing must sign up before the meeting starts tonight.

“If they want to provide information or input that evening, they have to sign up ahead of time,” Dorathy said. “They can sign up by calling or emailing Laura (Morford) at the District Office or sign up that night. But at 6:59, we have to start the meeting, so if someone walks in after that time, they won’t be allowed to sign up. They need to be there early to sign up.”

Dorathy said the public hearing was an opportunity for the board to see the proposal again and a chance for the public to give information, opinions or ideas. Each person has a maximum of five minutes to speak. If that’s not enough time, they should bring eight copies of their information for board members.

“There will be no decision made on Thursday night,” Dorathy said. “The board will make a decision at a later meeting.”

Closing the schools has been on the table since last spring when the district considered responses to possible budget cuts from the Kansas Legislature.

During the past two years, the district’s state funding has been cut $765,000, and state aid per pupil has dropped about $400. The school district also reallocated $360,000 to pay for teachers’ health insurance in 2009.

“The bond issue was passed and things were going well,” Dorathy said. “If we would have gone along and continued as we were, then none of this would be happening. When the economy starting going down and went deeper than most people would have guessed, the state started cutting its education budget. Being cut $765,000 is unprecedented in a two-year period. Trying to deal with that within a budget has been difficult to make it.”

Like many districts, Baldwin has been forced to cut staff, programs and other small items to make its budget work. Dorathy said some teachers and support staff might have to be let go.

Should the schools be closed to save money, it is now thought all students could be placed in regular classrooms next year.

““The initial look we did at it showed that we might have to use other rooms,” Dorathy said. “After we examined it more, it looks like all of the kids will be in regular classrooms.”

Closing both schools would save the district money, but how much depends on how many staff members are cut.

“Our estimated savings is $420,678,” Dorathy said. “Most of that is staff cuts. There is some savings in utilities and food service things, but most all of that is staff. However, there are other things that need to be figured into this, such as mileage between buildings and special education staffing. There are many other small things that need to be considered.”

Comments

ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

And if those numbers arent bad enough check out the article on the newest $ 50 Million school funding short fall. Or the atricle about Baldwins newest title - The highest taxed, highest levied city in Douglas County. Look at the facts and figures - the blood has been squeezed out of the U$D 348 turnips " taxpayers"

It's a financial decision not emotional

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Chicramblings 3 years, 9 months ago

Ksrush, as I responded to you yesterday, yes this is a financial decision, but the Superintendent even mentions above, not all the financial information has been considered. Are we sure this will save the $425,000 that it is touted to save? I am tired of the cries of "financial mismanagement" in this district. I have heard them for 18 years. Go investigate the facts. Make sure you are comfortable with the "information" in this financial decision and you can support financially where it gets us in 3 to 5 years. This is especially poignant when there are other savings opportunities out there that the District is refusing to consider.

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ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

How is it after all these months people still need information. What on earth can you possibly need

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Julie Craig 3 years, 9 months ago

It's not information, it's just a way to state your opinion.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 9 months ago

How about the fact that we are still trusting an administrator that got us into this mess? The idea that he had no clue what type of depression we were entering when they passed this school bond is laughable and if true then speaks volumes of Dorathy's ignorance and mismanagement of our District.

The bottom line is by doing this their is no $400k dollar savings. If their were any real savings by doing this then I would be for it but the fact is as soon as the schools are closed the money that is currently being spent on keeping class sizes small and educating all kids K-5 effectively will be reallocated to other areas.

Thus no savings, so when the State gives us a new budget for next year we will still be in the same boat we are in now facing a possible huge budget shortfall. Except now we will have 20-25 kids per classroom for grades K-5 with stressed out elementary teachers who can't hardly teach that many kids nor address any child with any sort of learning problems. Oh, and we will be out of room in those brand new schools 2-3 years so then we will either have to raise taxes to reopen those schools or pass another school bond to increase the size of our brand new elementary schools or we can bring in Govt Trailers and house your kids classes in single wides!!

While I have personally talked to the man and find him to be a very honest person Dorathy is seems to exhibit gross negligence about economics and has no real interest in protecting the education of our youngest children. Lets face it, Dorathy has made some colossal blunders and needs to go.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 9 months ago

Uh, BaldwinDad, Dorathy didn't pass the bond issue. The voters did. Don't blame him for that.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 9 months ago

I blame him for proposing it in the first place and leading the voters to believe that he had a plan that would not require MAJOR cuts in the education of your children two years later to afford that very same Bond issue. Yes, the voters voted for it, but we were also voting for him and his administration and obviously that vote and trust was misplaced.

I also blame him for not being smart enough to plan ahead and build the current PC big enough to include the influx of kids if they have to close the outlying schools if necessary. Some would like to think that was the plan all along get the bond passed then close the rural schools, please if that was the case then why are we looking at cramped class rooms which even he admits will NOT support the current year on year growth our district has has and that it will be over capacity in three years.

Also I blame him for looking at cutting the CORE product of his business first. Closing of the rural schools is Dorathy's easy out. Since he has seen this issue be brought up again and again by a small ignorant vocal minority of residents. He should know that as an educator the first cuts should be made to non essential programs and personnel. This means the Admin staff, Sports, Arts, Music, and HS education first before you even think of cutting the budget of grades K-5.

Please keep in mind there is NO SAVINGS from closing the rural schools. All the savings is coming from firing Teachers and staff. This will mean a reduction in the quality of education that is received by ALL kids grades K-5.

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ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

Isn't the budget a use it or lose it ? Do you want to spend $400/K keeping the 2 schools open and revisit this again next year or take care of the isssue now and move ahead. This can be dragged out indefinately but the issue has to be dealt with like it or not.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 9 months ago

Your right then deal with it effectively. You are simply making the assumption that closing schools will save money it will not. Firing teachers and staff is what is saving the money. This proposed savings is actually just Budget cuts to education of grades K-5 to fund other projects that this administration things is important.

So as long as your for cutting the education budget of grades K-5 then just admit cause that is what this is plain and simple.

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Julie Craig 3 years, 9 months ago

There is a Contingency Reserve Fund that is allowed by the State to hold up to 10% of the General Fund Budget. Money can be transferred there and saved.

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citymole 3 years, 9 months ago

KSRUSH- The information we need is where does this figure of $400,000 come from? And what they plan to do next when we are at capacity again in 2-3 years? Does everyone realize this is a one time allocation and NOT A PER YEAR SAVINGS??? the utilities, maintenance, winterizing and bills will still need to be paid for these empty schools. They got themselves in a pickle by misleading the public and overspending now they are trying to fix a damn with a band-aid and no sees that.... they just see that this " big savings" will be help the city kids and sports programs. All those against keeping the schools open obviously haven't been exposed to the fine print in which Dorathy and the rest of the school board is keeping hidden.. OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE !

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ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

Who says we're at capacity in 2 - 3 years. I dont see any sign of a people wanting to move to Baldwin. We have the highest tax and levy rate in Douglas County, outrageous utilities, barely concious city hall, a school district that is in a financial mess. Lots of empty houses Hey whats not to love ? You can blame whoever you want for the mess but all you need to look at is the facts reported directly from the Govt. Unless you think the government is lying too.

If you really need all this information ASK AT THE MEETING TONIGHT. I'm sure you can get the information you want in order to drag this process out even longer.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 9 months ago

All you have to do is look at the average growth for the last three years. It indicates an increase of about 20 to 30 students per year. If that is the case then the current IC and PC which were NEVER intended to house the students from MSE & VES will be at or over capacity in 2-3 years. Mr. Dorathy himself has admitted this and has said that is why he wants to keep the outlying buildings so they can be re-opened in 2-3 years when we have reached capacity.

Once again this is a Band-Aid fix and not a longer term solution.

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citymole 3 years, 9 months ago

IT HAS BEEN ASKED FOR AT EVERY MEETING ! BUT THE BOARD IS NOT ALLOWED TO RESPOND TO THE CITIZENS. THEY IGNORE EMAILS, CALLS AND DRAG ASS ON GETTING THE INFO OUT... YOU ASK THEM...... SEE HOW EASY IT IS TO GET THAT INFO... NOT HAPPENING. THE ONLY ONES DRAGGING THE PROCESS OUT IS THE SCHOOL BOARD. THEY WONT HAND OVER THE INFO BC THEY KNOW WHAT IS IN IN WILL BLOW YOUR MINDS AND THERE WILL BE ENOUGH TIME FOR YOU TO OPEN YOUR EYES AND SAY " WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING"?

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ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

I say that daily anyway- usually just about the City though

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kal110386 3 years, 9 months ago

What do you mean this is a one time savings if they close the school? Do you only have to pay a teacher one time? Their salaries are a yearly thing if I'm not mistaken. The biggest reason to close these schools if the district having to trim back on faculty. Look at the budget for the district and you will see that the VAST majority of the budget goes into salaries. With the expected cuts to come in the next few years, every district across the state will be forced to reduce the amount of teachers they have.

We can't sit here pointing our fingers at the school board acting like they've masterminded some scheme over the years to close these schools down. We as a state have elected people into office who didn't/couldn't put education first, and I fear it will only get worse after the recent elections. This is a last resort option for the school board. For those of you who think closing these schools won't save the district as much money as they're hoping doesn't take the budget cuts and problem off the table. Maybe they don't save the money they need to with these school closings, but that just means there will need to be even MORE cuts and they will be more detrimental to the district. This is the biggest thing the district can do to save money that will come at the least expense of the students. If it's not enough, I don't see how that's a reason to keep the schools open, it only means we should brace ourselves to take even more steps backwards.

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Slade 3 years, 9 months ago

I've only made two attempts to contact board members, and both Mr. Parks and Mr. Busby were gracious and considerate with their time to address my concerns. I made a further inquiry to the district office to obtain a full budget report for this fiscal year, and Ms. Morford was very helpful, and provided to me exactly the information I was seeking.

That being said, I still have some misgivings about financial savings as presented by the district. One example: The district refinanced the Series 2001 Bond issue in August, to a reported taxpayer savings of $461,441. That number appears to me to be overstated by $11,000. This is nitpicking, and perhaps I've missed a stated discount somewhere, but I suspect not. My information is the savings report PiperJaffray distributed to the Board members at that meeting. Mr. Busby was generous enough to allow me to review the information provided that night. But that figure (http://signal.baldwincity.com/news/2010/aug/26/school-board-refinances-2001-bonds/) was reported in the paper by a district representative, and I believe that to be in error.

This, however, is only one way to look at the figures. This addresses the Present Value of the Bond debt, and accounts only for the actual stated figures of payment due throughout the life of the issue. After calculating the discounts and fees associated with the refinancing, the true savings to the taxpayers of the district appears to me to be only about $15,000. I don't argue that there were no savings here--it just appears to be about 3% of the savings announced by the district.

My point here is that specific financial information may not be the easiest thing in the world to get a hold of, and it might make your head hurt if you look at it too long, but it is there. It's taken work to acquire, but It is public record. Not one person has put up an insurmountable roadblock in a pursuit of the facts. Governmental financial information can be easily manipulated to appear to be something it is perhaps not.

I went to the KSDE website to find some information regarding our peer districts. The most current information available was for the 2009-10 year. Four districts in the state milled above 70 total. 36 districts had outstanding bond obligations over $35 million, and only four of those districts had total valuations below $100 million. It appears that #348 is the only district in the state by the most current information available to me that is milling over 70, has a valuation under $100 million, with bonds outstanding over $30 million. (Congratulations to Eudora Public Schools--they are attempting to do what we're doing in Baldwin with a little more aggression starting this year. They now have $54 million in outstanding obligations...) So I guess Eudora is our peer group. Chalking this one up to the "What are they thinking in Douglas County category."

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my3chix 3 years, 9 months ago

Money,Money,Money.......

close 1 school save = $200,000 close 2 schools save = $400,000 save both schools and keep quality education for all K-5 = PRICELESS

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ksrush 3 years, 9 months ago

While the rest of the district suffers for that - Priceless ? Wake up

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