• Where Does the Budget Gap Come From? (03.04.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 1:00:00 PM
    John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent for Administration
    As has been reported repeatedly in recent days, the District is facing a significant budget shortfall for the 2012 fiscal year. It is estimated that between revenue decreases and projected expense increases, the shortfall will be around $80 million dollars. I'd like to explain how that number was calculated.
    The district's final amended budget for fiscal year 2011 was $705 million. Using that as the baseline for projections for fiscal year 2012 , we then reviewed projected revenues. As of February 8, 2011 when the Governor's State budget was released, the following revenue reductions were anticipated for 2012:
    • Reduction in State Aid: $4 million
    • Decrease in Fund Balance Reserves: $24 million
    • Net Decrease in Other Revenue: $1 million
    The largest chunk of revenue reduction is the fund balance reserves. We have little cushion for emergencies because we used reserve funds last year to prevent layoffs and balance the budget.
    The district is also facing obligations that will increase overall expenditures. These include:
    • Projected contractual increase in Salaries: $11 million
    • Projected increase in the cost of Employee Benefits: $26 million
    • Increases in the cost of Fixed Obligations: $9 million
      • Includes obligated costs for Charter Schools, Transportation, Special Education Tuition, Health and Non-Employee Insurance, among other things
    • Increase in Facilities costs: $2 million
    • Increase in other known expenses: $3 million
      • Examples include BOCES and Agency Clerical
    TOTAL EXPENSE INCREASE : $51 million
    To summarize:
    • $705 million minus $29 million (revenue reduction) = $676 million in projected Revenue
    • $705 million plus $51 million (expense increase) = $756 million in projected Expenses
    • $756 million minus $676 million = $80 MILLION DEFICIT
    $80 million represents approximately 11% of the current amended budget.
    We are hopeful that the State Legislature will restore some of the funding cuts proposed by the Governor. We have lobbied for relief from State mandates to allow greater flexibility in spending. We are leaving no stone unturned to find opportunities to trim projected cost increases so we can drive more resources to our schools, who are making difficult choices and investing strategically to support students.
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  • Apples and Oranges: Understanding ESF (03.11.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 1:00:00 PM
    Joyce Martelli, Chief Financial Officer and Scott Sittig, Project Manager, ESF
    Comparing current year school budgets with estimated 2011-12 Equitable Student Funding (ESF) planning targets is like comparing apples to oranges. People are making this comparison but not including the information needed for an accurate comparison. This is leading to unnecessary confusion for parents, staff and the general public.
    So why is this “apples to oranges” comparison causing concerns?
    Let's start with what Equitable Student Funding is. ESF is a resource allocation method that distributes the district's available funding to our schools and departments. It strategically aligns dollars and positions to support our highest educational priorities as determined by those closest to our students. The allocation is based on student enrollment and the needs of those students.
    In short, ESF distributes available funding in an equitable manner. This year there are fewer dollars available to distribute. The estimated $80 million budget gap is caused by a decrease in revenue and an increase in expenses, not by the use of a particular allocation method.
    In addition to ESF, additional dollars and positions are distributed to schools from a central fund, referred to as “locked” dollars. Examples include the cost for certain special education classes, half the cost of kindergarten teachers, and special funds for programs such as IB and Career and Technical Education. Without these additional resources factored in, it is impossible to make any meaningful comparison between a school's current-year budget and its estimated budget for 2011-12.
    Another issue that makes the comparison flawed is the method used to calculate salaries. ESF budgeting is based upon average salaries for employees in a given title while the current-year budget uses actual salaries. The use of average salaries supports an equitable distribution of staff based on student enrollment, rather than on the amount of money required to pay for a particular position. Principals and schools were asked to focus on the positions needed to support their strategic academic plans instead of looking for the lowest salaries. In other words, focus first on the work and then look at the costs of providing that support. Any analysis that excludes an average-to-actual salary comparison will produce inaccurate results.
    Many have commented about “draconian” cuts. Yes, the cuts are severe, but it is simply inaccurate to publish numbers that compare figures that are not comparable or complete.
    We are committed to a transparent process. Specifics about school budgets will be published as more complete information becomes available and a meaningful analysis can be provided. We will continue working closely on budget development with our principals, who this year have greater autonomy over how their budgets are spent.
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  • ESF: Is Now the Right Time? (02.11.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:40:00 PM
    John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent of Administration
    Beth Mascitti-Miller, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
    Is this the right time for Equitable Student Funding?
    As the time draws near to present the 2012 budget, many concerns have been expressed about whether now is, in a time of declining revenue, a good time to roll out equitable student funding in the district. Experiences from districts all over the country that have transitioned to ESF have produced mixed feedback on this question. Our perspective has been unequivocal. Now is the best time to roll it out.
    First, the children of Rochester schools are our highest priority. ESF places the focus of our resources on each student and puts the onus on district leadership to structure academic programming to meet their needs. Second, the transition to devolving decisions to the school level is long overdue. Principals have asked for greater flexibility and autonomy in making the decisions that affect their students and ESF allows them more of both. Third, when resources are pinched, the need to think strategically becomes paramount. ESF demands that resources be allocated where they will result in maximum academic impact for their school. There is no better lens through which we can make limited resource allocation decisions than through those who are working directly with students in each building.
    It is important to remember that ESF is not the cause of this year's budget shortfalls and is not the reason that many difficult staffing decisions will be made this year. The stagnant economy has resulted in major budget cuts at the state level and the federal resources have dried up. As a result, the district is facing a budget reduction of over $80 million dollars this year. Whether ESF is rolled out this year or not, the same difficult staffing decisions and strategic alignment of fewer resources is going to be a reality. ESF provides a thoughtful model to make these difficult decisions and maximize the impact that the limited resources will have for the children in our district. Our experience with ESF this year will also provide a good lens on the future to learn what principals and their staffs believe are the most important components to educating our children and reaching our overall strategic goals. The road ahead will be challenging, but ESF is part of our strategic commitment to making this district better for every student we serve.
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  • Equitable Student Funding (01.28.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:00:00 PM
    Beth Mascitti-Miller, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
    Building great schools, great curriculum, and great teachers and leaders are the essential pillars that support student success. The products of our efforts become masterful when they converge to improve experiences and outcomes for our district's students and families.
    Creating great schools, curriculum, and educators requires critical decision making with each child's needs and best interests in mind. Equitable Student Funding is the architectural framework upon which these decisions can be strategically made. Equitable Student Funding stimulates building-based and student-centered decision making, promotes equitable distribution of resources with students' personal and academic needs in mind, and better aligns resources to effectively impact student achievement.
    Highly effective decision making and action planning is dependent upon informed and knowledgeable practitioners. Building a common language requires shared vision. With this in mind, guidance documents have been developed to support the work in schools and quest to fully educate each child. The guidance documents will help develop a common understanding about expectations of the district and state in developing a school plan and budget. The guidance documents will continue to be written as needs and changes arise to ensure schools have the most recent and accurate information to make the best decisions for their students.
    Creating a framework that supports transparency and equity is at the center of the Equitable Student Funding design. Empowering schools to make instructional decisions with the flexibility to determine the allocation of resources, supported by guidance documents, will ideally lead to a better educational experience for all students.
    Additional structures are being made available to support schools as we move in this new direction. We hope that you will find these useful as we work together to improve achievement.
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  • ESF Not Reason for Budget Reductions (02.18.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:00:00 PM
    John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent of Administration
    I am sure that many of you have heard or read about the financial status of our State and the impact that it is having on the school districts of New York. This includes our District. Although we have not felt the impact as harshly as comparative districts such as Buffalo and Syracuse, we are facing a significant deficit. Our estimated deficit for the 2011-12 year is approximately $80 M. It is important to understand that this deficit is due to not only the decrease of revenue, particularly State funding, but also to the increase in District expenses. In fact $51 M of the $80 M deficit is due to the anticipated increases in contractual salaries, retirement benefits, health insurance costs, payment of early retirement payments to the retirement system, cost of fuel for transportation, cost of supplies, maintenance for facilities, and other rising costs. Increased salaries and employee benefits make up approximately $37 M of the $51 M increase in expenditures. This size of the deficit will cause the District to make some difficult decisions in order to continue to invest in the education of our children. According to our new governor, this is the first year of several years that education will be reduced in funding by the State government.
    As we go through this period it is important to understand that Equitable Student Funding (ESF) is not the reason for the budget reductions. ESF is a tool to strategically align scarce resource decisions to support our highest educational priorities. As we align our dollars and work toward the equitable distribution of these limited resources, we will continue to invest in areas necessary to promote the welfare of all students. It is necessary to make changes that will promote the reduction of costs throughout this year and future years, but our students remain our first concern. Whether we use ESF or any other model, we will still have less money available and will need to continue to make difficult budget decisions.
    ESF will actually allow us to invest our limited funds more strategically by involving individuals that are the closest to the students that we serve. The formula used in ESF directs funding to those with the highest needs. It will allow our school leaders to allocate our reducing dollars to areas that maximize academic impact for our students. Our presentation of funding will have a higher level of clarity and transparency that has not been available in the past.
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  • Statement on RCSD Budget Development

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:00:00 PM
    From John Scanlan, RCSD Deputy Superintendent of Administration (3/3/11)
    The district is working to create a balanced budget while facing a budget gap of approximately $80 million. This gap is the result of declining state and federal revenue and increasing costs including employee compensation and benefits.
    The district has significantly less money to spend this year, which translates into fewer dollars available for schools to spend in their budgets. Across the district, there will be cuts in spending both operationally and through workforce reductions. The deficit may require the reduction of hundreds of positions across all departments and across all buildings including central office.
    Schools right now are developing their budgets based on the funding they have been allocated. Through a system known as Equitable Student Funding, we have allocated funding equitably among all of our schools based on student population and student needs. Principals and their school budget teams are creating the most effective academic programs and staffing plans possible within the constraints of the approximately $80 million deficit. They are making difficult decisions while also investing their dollars where they will have the greatest impact on student achievement. These decisions are being made by those who know our students best—those in our schools.


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  • About Equitable Student Funding (01.21.11)

    Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 10:00:00 AM
    John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent of Administration
    For the past two years we have studied the way we distribute and use funds in RCSD. By analyzing where and how we spend our resources we are able to gain a more detailed understanding on how to support the work of teachers and Principals in our schools. We have created a plan to increase equity for our students through a funding system called Equitable Student Funding (ESF).  This method of distributing dollars to our schools is designed to accomplish three (3) goals for the district:
    1. ESF supports our objective by allowing those closest to our children to make the best informed decisions in distributing our resources and money aligned to the school’s academic plan.
    2. By distributing the funds based on characteristics and needs of our children we are, over time, building more equity into our system.  Across the district we will provide the same level of resource to cover the needs of all of our children.
    3. The funding method is designed to support those priorities that improve the academic outcomes for all of our students.  The resources are targeted to our core work of academic instruction and student learning.

    While complex in implementation, ESF is really as simple as these key concepts.  We will change and adapt our system to serve schools in the same way we differentiate student learning based on individual students’ needs. ESF is designed to provide teachers and schools the resources available as they work to “create masterpieces.” 

    We will be providing more information in the coming weeks and months around this and other work.

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