Pickerington school board wants to set financial goals

If voters approve the 5 mill replacement levy this November and a renewal levy next year, will the Pickerington Local Schools remain off the ballot for another five years?

At a meeting Sept. 24, Pickerington Board of Education President James Brink suggested that he and his fellow board members set realistic goals for where the district should be in five years. Once the board agrees upon the goals, Treasurer Vince Utterback will work with Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia to create a five-year master plan.

Brink said he wants to see the district goals include remaining off the ballot, maintaining quality education and not having a negative cash balance.

"Vince showed me several years of red.  I don’t want to see the red color," said Brink.

"We are vigilant about finding ways to reduce costs because we do want to stay off the ballot as long as we can," Mantia said.  "This is a wonderful challenge. I think we are up for it."

Board member Gail Oakes said the district must consider new ways of conducting business to save money.  For example, when teachers retire, the district does not have to replace them and the district could tell vendors to lower their prices.

The district needs to work like a business and the success of a business is "based on the power of positive thinking," Oakes said.

Utterback said most of the district’s budget is fixed cost. Personnel costs comprise 80 percent of the budget and a large portion of the remainder covers the utilities. In 2010, three new schools will be operating with additional personnel and utility costs. The district can tweak the budget based on possible savings from vendors, but it won’t make a large difference.

The district could outsource personnel to save money, Oakes said,  "You can get creative."

"We don’t want to outsource teachers," board member Lori Sanders said.

Utterback said a five-year plan would be built upon variables such as estimated enrollment, utility costs and interest rates.

Brink said one reason the board selected Mantia as superintendent was her experience with auditing other districts.

Reviewing costs is not new to the district, Sanders said. The last levy was expected to last three years and Utterback and his department made it last five.

"Vince has been recognized by the state of Ohio as a model (for district treasurers)," board member Lisa Reade said. "He has worked magic and he can do it again.  Karen brings new ideas to the table. Ohio uses Pickerington as a model for other school districts because Vince does what he does very well."

The district stayed within budget restraints despite incredible growth, Mantia said. The administration will dig even further to find savings.

Brink said the board would discuss a plan for if the levy fails at their October meeting.

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