The Budgetary Bridge

spartans­Last night I had a dream: I was heading over a bridge that abruptly changed, for some reason, into one lane. This lane then became a path, and the path a flashback. I then found myself in the year 480 BC fighting as one of the 300 Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persian Empire of Xerxes.

O.K. I had been working hard lately on the school district’s budget: fighting to save programs as we found ourselves in a deficit, heading into next school year.

Like the movie The 300 Spartans, challenges with the school’s budget can be viewed as invading ships from sea and armies approaching upon land. With rising costs in health insurance, energy, facility issues, and numerous underfunded and unfunded state mandates such as the new teacher/principal evaluation systems, PARCC Assessments, and the Common Core to name a few, all of these arrows threaten to block out our Sun.

Armed with only a few administrators, all gallantly carrying a sword of vision, commitment, trust, and passion for our students’ success, every school year we take on these invading outside forces. But, with each school year the fight seems to become more difficult. In recent years 2% tax levy caps have been placed on school budgets with few exceptions. The critical issue is that it seems that everything goes up more than 2% within school budgets. So what does this mean? It means that we have to be very creative in heading off a Barbarian Horde of fiscal challenges. O.K. I am mixing my movies. But, I like Gladiator too.

Haddonfield gets very little state aid when compared with surrounding school districts. We have one of the lowest rates of cost per pupil spending. As a district, we have made a commitment in recent years to raise our revenue through innovative programs such as our tuition program and summer academy. In just the last few years we have grown our tuition program to generate annually almost a half a million dollars in order to save taxpayers money. Our tuition revenue is half of our total annual state aid.

Our battle plan includes the following shields:

shield-bullet slight cuts in administrative line items.

shield-bullet realign capital outlay and capital reserve to cover all capital projects in the long-range facility plan.

shield-bullet actively investigating and applying for state grants to support capital projects.

shield-bullet renegotiating special education contracts while supporting students at the same level.

shield-bullet optimizing staff attrition.

shield-bullet analyzing and minimizing external costs in conjunction with state legislators.

shield-bullet working collaboratively with district administrators to develop a cost efficient budget while maintaining strong curricula in the classrooms.

GWB_HDR2--14x11-+layers--cropThe green lights atop the bridge go on as a helicopter flies overhead. I move onward as more lanes open up and more ways to approach the deficit become clearer. As I drive on, with the battle cries of the budget fading into the distance, I glance upward at the sun. It is bright and set in a blueness, one seemingly of hope.

I am proud to present the board of education and Haddonfield tax payers a lean budget that protects and supports all in-classroom services while maintaining our tradition of educational excellence.

As I briefly glance upon the glass, looking outward over the sea, I see a reflection- King Leonidas of Sparta. He echoes, we will fight another day.

budget presentation and budget cuts

300 Spartans movie trailer