PRIORITIZED IDEAS FOR IMPROVEMENT UNDER LOCAL OPTIONAL REVENUE
The 2014 Legislative Session included legislation establishing a provision for independent school districts to secure funds through a process called Local Optional Revenue. The legislature extended authority to local school districts to determine whether to implement a local tax assessment. This tool allows school districts to structure local levy authority (through referendum, local board decision or combination of the processes) to access up to $724 per pupil unit. Some of this information was reviewed in the fall, but I would like to share an update on the status.
EFFECTS OF THE LEGISLATION
Local Optional Revenue applies to all school districts in some fashion. For schools like ROCORI, the Local Optional Revenue opened up funding opportunities that previously did not exist. Throughout the summer, the school board examined the current levy status of the district, the effects of changing the values on district revenues, and the impact on local taxpayers of the various options.
For the ROCORI School District, implementation of the Local Optional Revenue was projected to generate approximately $470,000 in additional revenue for the district in the 2015-16 school year over the revenues for 2014-15.
The revenue comes in a combination of local levy and state aid. Part of the process, for the school board, was to align the actions to maximize state aid while making the local property tax impact as minimal as possible.
The legislation, actually, assumed that school districts would implement the option fully. Board action, however, was required to align the funding appropriately or to access less than the full amount. As the board worked with the information and considered the effects, a decision was made to apply the full amount.
EXAMINING DISTRICT NEEDS
After initial discussion with the administrative team, district leadership is seeking (much like previous referendum efforts) to identify core priorities for the application of these resources. In previous referendum efforts, the district identified academic support, maintaining appropriate class sizes, and enhancing academic opportunities as the core efforts for the resources.
With Local Optional Revenue, the ROCORI School District is committed to identifying needs and applying the resources in similar manner. There are some very clear academic needs within the district, the tight finances in previous years have challenged the ability to maintain lower class sizes, and academic opportunities have had to be restricted. The district is committed to applying the Local Optional Revenues to help address these issues.
PRIORITIES FOR THE FUNDS
The school board is committed to using the resources to enhance programs for students. The district priorities for the use of Local Optional Revenue include:
1. Provide additional resources and staff in areas of academic need. Several areas are of highest concern:
a. Students learning the English language along with their native language
b. Establishment and enhancement of Academic Achievement/Enrichment programs
c. Support for students who struggle with core math and reading skills
2. Enhance academic options and opportunities within the district programs.
a. Restore areas of elective courses that have witnessed reductions
b. Support course options and approaches that enhance 21st Century learning
c. Support extension of Global Language opportunities
d. Examine reductions in fees that inhibit or prevent students from engaging in learning opportunities
3. Enhance and support classroom instructional practices.
a. Provide appropriate technology integration support
b. Support academic best practices, curriculum and programs
4. Enhance efforts promoting a safe school and learning environment
a. Maintain class sizes consistent with district policies and expectations across all grade levels.
b. Ensure adequate care and maintenance of district facilities.
c. Provide appropriate counseling and social work support for students
d. Increase activity, hallway and playground supervision
As with some of the referendum issues, it can be difficult to track specific funding because of changes in finances and other pressures. For example, a decline in enrollment would change the value of the revenue generated simply because the local optional revenue, like most school funding, is based on enrollment.
Although specific decisions are still being considered and will be applied as the budget development process unfolds, the district wants to be careful and respectful in identification of resource uses. Many issues will not be determined until we know more of what happens at the capitol, but the district has already started to apply the resources.
We have opened positions related to Academic Achievement (formerly Gifted and Talented programs) and to support English Language learners. These positions were clearly identified as high priority needs within the concepts reviewed this fall. The two positions have been advertised and we are seeking qualified applicants for the roles for the next school year.
The administrative team and school board work together to examine ideas and determine allocations within the budget. There are continuing discussions about needs beyond the two positions already authorized. As decisions are made, information will be shared in a variety of ways.