I was naturally drawn to the article which appeared in the Dayton Daily News on November 16 titled, “Many districts succeed with less.” I tend to read most articles regarding schools, and especially those that talk about performance and expenditures. Unfortunately, the article focused on schools in counties to our south or east.
I do not recall seeing any school districts from Auglaize, Darke, Mercer, or Shelby counties, which are the counties that we normally compare ourselves when it comes to such things as district report cards, per pupil expenditure, and salaries, not to mention sports. I am fairly confident that the majority of the schools in this area would stack up pretty well against those districts mentioned in the article and I do not want to take anything away from them, but I am going to focus on Versailles, for the time being.
Without naming names, the top school district listed had a performance index of 110.3, which is a very impressive score. The expenditure per pupil listed for this district was $10,125, which is just below the state average that was listed as $10,144. Had we been listed in this article, we would have been at the fourth ranking. Our performance index was 107.0, while our expenditure per pupil was $9,281.
At first glance, it appears as if it is a pretty even trade-off. If you spend a little more money, you get better results. If we look at the numbers for one of the larger districts in the state, they spent $14,047 per pupil and had a performance index of 75.9. Apparently, spending more does not always get you more.
There is a term used out in the business world which talks about the ROI, the return on investment. It is a good indicator of how much bang you are getting for your buck. We were discussing these numbers at a recent board meeting and in order to compare apples to apples, it was thought that a good way to check on our ROI would be to see what the cost per performance index point might yield. Looking at the top performer in the DDN “area” districts, their ROI was $91.8/index point. Looking at the same comparison for Versailles, our POI was $86.7 per index point. It seems as if our ROI gives us a little more bang for our buck. Well done, Versailles students and staff.
Why do I bring this up and where am I going with this? I bring this up because we are looking at some serious financial issues within our district which is basically due to the rising costs to operate the school and the decline of revenue due to state and federal money, along with a loss from our income tax.
We have been attempting to lower our expenses each of the past couple of years by not filling vacancies in our staff that came about from retirements or resignations. When it was necessary to fill positions, we have been able to fill those positions with some very highly qualified and quality individuals with relatively little or no experience, which also allows us to make some savings.
Each of the past two years, we have been able to realize a savings of approximately $250,000 to $300,000. Still, that has not been enough to get us through the latest shortcoming. Our current income tax expires on December 31, which means we have to go back on the ballot in 2012 in order to start collecting any funds on Jan. 1, 2013. In addition to the money generated by the tax levy, we still need to look at cutting programs and personnel. Not a pleasant task, but one that must take place.
As we ponder the immediate needs of our district, we must certainly reflect on whether we are willing to sacrifice for the top notch education that we have come to expect or are we willing to sit back and expect someone else to make the sacrifice for us. You cannot get a luxury car for the price of a clunker. We all like to get a deal and get the best for our dollar. I think that our numbers pretty much speak for themselves. We were ranked 39th out of 937 – the top 5 percent - while spending only 91 percent of the state average per pupil. I’d say we taxpayers are getting a pretty good return on our investment.
David Vail is the superintendent of Versailles EVSD and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.