Elevar Community Engagement Update - November 14, 2018

On November 14, 2018 at 7:00PM the New Richmond Schools Administration and Board of Education held a community engagement session in the Middle School cafeteria, facilitated by Greg Otis, AIA of Elevar Design Group. Approximately 80 community members in attendance were given an update from previous meetings regarding the overall community engagement process, results from the previous October 30, 2018 meeting, executive summary of the 5-Year financial projections for the district, and participated in a small-group exercise at their tables.

Mr. Mike Mowery, Treasurer for New Richmond Schools, gave a summary report of the District’s 5-Year financial projections. It is a requirement of the Sate of Ohio that each district update their projections annually. Mr. Mowery reported that based on conservative estimates the District will exhaust cash reserves in as early as two years. Mr. Mowery took questions from community members to help clarify the basis and findings of the report.

Approximately half of those gathered had not attended the previous meeting. Mr. Otis reported on the work from that meeting, as well as reminded attendees of the goal to help the District achieve a balanced operating budget. Attendees of the October meeting were asked to identify ways the District could increase revenue, as well as reduce spending. Revenue increasing ideas ranged from introducing an operating levy, seeking assistance from the state, improving tax receipts by growing the local economy, and introducing pay to play programs. Spending reduction ideas included, school consolidation, selling the Market Street building, reducing transportations, study open enrollment, and cutting programs or benefits.

Mr. Otis asked those gathered to work as table teams to prioritize both a list of revenue generating ideas, and separately prioritize a list of cost saving measures. Following active deliberation by ten table teams, each were asked to post their results on a tally sheet, which compared each team’s results, side-by-side. Mr. Otis then facilitated a whole-room discussion about the findings, and the varied approaches some team took to the exercise.

There was general agreement that some measures could be implemented in the short-term, while others, such as growing the local economy, would likely take a decade to fully implement. Community members expressed concern that while comprehensive, the list of ideas was too general and unclear as to the magnitude of revenue increase or cost savings, respectively. However, there was also general agreement that a levy and facility consolidation were the most likely measures for achieving a balanced operating budget.

The formal results were as follows:

Revenue Generators (by percentage vote):
50 – Operating levy
10 – Petition state for increased support
10 – Seek grants
 9 – Establish boosters
 6 – Increase interest income
 6 – Attract business partners
 5 – Implement pay-to-play programs
 4 – Grow the local economy

Spending Reductions (by percentage vote):
34 – Consolidation and/or selling assets
16 – Reduce staff
12 – Study current spending for savings
11 – Share programs w/ adjacent districts
11 – Study benefits of open enrollment
 7 – Reduce transportation
 7 – Reduce to a 4-day school week
 2 – Cut programs or benefits

District Superintendent Mr. Adam Bird, was asked what the District’s total student enrollment was. Mr. Bird responded that the State report shows that the 10-year projection most recently completed shows flat growth for the coming decade when taking into account birthrates and new housing starts, etc. However, the District had approximately 2800 resident students a decade ago. Today the District has 2300 students, which includes more than 350 open enrollment students.

Further, Mr. Bird explained that selling the Market Street building would reduce operating costs long-term, but would require some expenses for items such as asbestos abatement in preparation for sale. By way of example, each item on the lists needs further study as to what will be truly necessary to balance the District’s operating budget. Mr. Otis committed to presenting an order of magnitude for each of the items listed in future meetings.

The next community engagement meeting will be held Monday, December 3rd at 7:00PM in the Middle School Cafeteria. All are welcome.

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