Dayton schools singing the budget blues…again

The Dayton Public Schools are caught in the middle of a
financial crisis… yet again. A recent Dayton
Daily News
article
delivered the somber news that DPS officials must find a way to avoid a $12
million deficit in 2014. Last year DPS cut
294 positions, including 139 teaching spots, in an attempt to fill a $9 million
hole. Less than a year later, the district is back in the same spot, leaving DPS
leaders with a couple of options.

Property Tax Levy

One option
to fill the gap is putting a new tax levy on the ballot in the November
election. Dayton voters last approved a 4.9 million operating tax levy in 2008
which was supposed to generate $9.3 million annually. However, due to a
decrease in student enrollment, high foreclosure rates, and delinquent taxes,
the district is actually collecting less in property taxes than it did before
the levy. Consider the following: in 2001 DPS had 20,147 students enrolled in
their schools; fast-forward to the 2010-11 school year and only 14,174 students
remain in DPS. The news doesn’t get much better when you look at the amount of
tax money that is not collected. In 2010 DPS lost out on almost $5 million
dollars (collecting only 85.5 percent of taxes due to the district).
Considering the track record of tax collection and the not so bright future for
the jobs market in Dayton, school officials ought to think twice about relying
on another levy to fill the budget gap.

Cuts

If the
school system can’t increase the amount of tax money collected it will have to
turn to another option – cuts. No district likes to cut services or staff from
their school, including Dayton. However, the reality is that Dayton needs to
make smart cuts, those that that save a great deal of money while not harming
the academic instruction being provided. 
Dayton Public Schools should consider thinking of different ways to save
money. After all, the district is educating 30 percent fewer kids today than in
2001, where is all the money going?

Dayton’s
situation is not unique. Cities around the country, including Cleveland, are
experiencing severe budget problems. Cost cutting is never an easy task and one
that many organizations would rather not deal with. But with the new normal
being one of less money and resources the exercise of cutting costs and
services should be more than just that, district leaders should take the
challenge as a way to drive school reform and improve student achievement and
learning. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyways? 

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