Increase Revenue, Not Taxes!

Centennial hunts for more dollars

Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 5:41 am | Updated: 7:15 am, Mon Jun 6, 2011. Centennial hunts for more dollars

By Manasee Wagh Staff Writer

Centennial School District is looking for fresh ideas to overcome education funding cuts without having to raise taxes or shrink programs and extracurricular activities.

Officials and community members are putting their heads together to hopefully generate $2.5 million over the next two years.

“The goal is to raise (the money) through community partnerships, business affiliation, sponsorships and fund raising,” said board member Mark Miller, chairman of the newly formed Alternative Revenue Committee.

The committee’s first priority is paying back the $800,000 borrowed from the district’s general fund to complete construction of the William Tennent High School stadium in the 2007-08 school year.

More than a dozen people have volunteered to serve on the committee, but more are needed, Miller said. He expects the committee will have between nine and 15 people from different parts of the Centennial community, including the administration, professional and support staff, community members, student government, home and school groups, the Boosters and the Future Business Leaders of America club.

Aside from specific goals, any money the committee can generate will go toward helping the district financially, he said.

For instance, if an outside organization can sponsor the annual 5k run, then event expenses would be covered. That means any money raised at the race would be pure profit, which could go toward educational programs or some other district expense, said Miller.

At the first committee meeting this Wednesday, board members will review candidates who have applied and inventory assets the district could conceivably sell. The committee will review proposals from Domino’s Pizza and Green Energy Recycling, as well as four different programs for the sale of licensed merchandise or apparel and event sponsorship of the high school’s 56th Annual Cross Country Invitational Meet in October. A portion of the revenue generated will help to pay back stadium costs, said Miller.

If the committee accepts two or three proposals, the district can expect to earn between $25,000 and $50,000 in profit from licensed merchandise in the 2011-12 school year, said Miller.

The district already partners with some businesses and organizations to raise funds.

For example, a contract with Coca-Cola provided revenue to pay for a $90,000 stadium scoreboard in 2008, in return for the non-exclusive use of Coca-Cola products (including Dasani Water, Nestea Iced Tea, and Powerade) in school cafeterias, in several vending machines throughout the district and in concession stands at athletic events.

Board member Jane Lynch hopes the first meeting produces more details about exactly how the committee will work. She and board member Betty Huf voted against the formation of the Alternative Revenue Committee at a recent school board meeting.

Lynch said the vote should have taken place at a later meeting so that the board would have had more time to discuss the concept and operation of the committee.

“The idea was introduced in the meeting and voted on the same night. Not knowing the guidelines, the formation, the structure of the committee, I just felt I didn’t have enough information to vote for it. I do wish them well in the endeavor,” she said.

The committee will explore its next steps at Wednesday’s meeting, said Miller.

Huf said she was more concerned with advertising becoming increasingly common in schools.

“The basis behind it is good, but I don’t feel like selling advertisements on our fields and in our schools. If you want someone to put up a half million dollars, they’re going to want their name put up on a plaque or (push their product). I don’t think shoving advertising down the throats of our students is the way to go,” she said.

School board and committee member Michael Hartline said he understands concerns about advertising. The committee will keep student well-being at the forefront when it comes to forming partnerships, he added.

“Any contract signed has to be signed with the board’s approval. I don’t want to see inappropriate advertising. We would want to write a contract that would preclude any type of non-wholesome or non-beneficial ad for students, like alcohol or tobacco,” he said.

In line with that philosophy, Coca-Cola beverages in the district comply with Centennial’s wellness policy. No carbonated soft drinks are sold in cafeterias, and vending machines are on timers to prevent student purchases during the school day, said Miller. Coca-Cola also provides money for recycling projects in the district, an annual scholarship and $3,000 a year for projects the school board initiates, he said.

It’s time to be financially conservative, said Hartline. Raising $2.5 million would offset an anticipated drop in federal funding, he said.

To balance a $95,302,983 spending plan, the district is facing a $133 average tax hike, staff reduction by 28 positions and the use of $101,379 from the district’s fund balance.

Professional staff reductions are a result of the newly approved four-year teachers contract, which includes salary increases for the next three years.

The district will look at reducing teacher and other professional staff positions through retirements and attrition first, but there’s no doubt that some of them will be furloughed, said Miller.

“The fact that there are fewer teachers is only because we’re paying more money to the remaining teachers,” said Miller.

There will be between 20 and 23 fewer teachers by the fall. Actual figures won’t be known until later this summer, said Miller.

Other cuts are anticipated in administration and support staff, but the administration won’t present those figures to the board until June 14, when the final budget will be on the table for a vote, Miller added.

The contract stipulates salary increases over the next three years: a 1.75 percent increase across the salary matrix for the 2011-12 school year, 1.75 percent for 2012-13 and 1.5 percent for the 2013-14 year.

However, actual increases will be higher for individual teachers because of built-in incremental increases for years of service and for earning additional educational credits toward higher college degrees.

The average teachers’ salary is more than $84,000, said Miller.

Officials say the cost of health care alone will be a burden — even without raises or benefits increases.

While teachers’ share of family HMO plan health insurance premiums will decrease as a percentage of total cost each year, the district share will increase, from 79.83 percent in 2011-12, to 79.93 percent the following year, and 80.3 percent in the 2013-14 school year, according to district figures.

“We have to look at the worst case scenario and plan for that and hope for the best,” Hartline said. “We’re trying to help soften the blow of any cuts that may come. We want to make the tax burden as little as possible.”

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