STILLWATER, Okla. — I’d like to devote this article to three major topics from this past month.
Stillwater Public Schools has now received its much anticipated mid-year funding notice for
the state aid funding formula. In the state of Oklahoma, public school districts wait until December to find out how much state funding they will receive.
Schools receive monthly payments of state aid from August through December based on an
initial tentative allocation received in July.
Then, monthly payments for January through June are adjusted accordingly so that the total
amount received for the year corresponds to the amount reflected on the mid-year allocation.
This year, school finances have been further complicated by state revenue shortfalls.
Schools have not received a full monthly payment from the state for any month yet this school
year. Due to these monthly shortfalls, the mid-year allocation notice includes a 5 percent
cut in funding for all Oklahoma schools. This 5 percent
statewide cut has cost Stillwater Public Schools $815,000 in state funding this school year.
We are very appreciative of the work our legislators have done to shore up education
funding this past week so that now we will only realize a 4 percent cut this fiscal year.
Currently, Stillwater is set to receive $13,563,413 in state aid this year. The funding formula is
based on student numbers plus additional weights for various student categories.
This weighted student count for Stillwater grew by 4.4 percent this year. However, in spite
of this student growth, overall state aid actually decreased by $433,000 from last year’s
amount due to state revenue shortfalls.
With this student growth, Stillwater’s state aid funding would have been $14,378,442 if
state revenues had reached the levels anticipated last spring by the legislators.
So, Stillwater is forced to absorb the costs associated with these additional students while
at the same time realizing a funding cut from the state. Fortunately, our school board
anticipated the funding crisis and they began this year with the largest fund balance in recent
history (10.09 percent), which had been built up over the last two school years.
The fund balance allows the district to face these cuts without taking drastic measures this
school year. It also allows us to meet our monthly obligations without borrowing money.
Our fund balance in December had dropped from $4.4 million on July 1 to $300,000! Of
course, the fund balance will be replenished this semester as property tax revenue and federal
program claims begin to arrive.
At this point, it is anticipated that the district will finish the year with a fund balance of approximately 7 percent that will help carry us through another expected tough year in 2010-11.
The district is currently formulating a budget reduction plan for next school year in anticipation
of continued funding shortfalls.
Pioneer Stadium Suite
Our stadium press box has multiple rooms on the home side for a variety of purposes. There
are dedicated spaces for coaches, print media, TV/radio, video, and the announcer. There is also one room with seats for 22 people. We decided this year to invite various groups who had
helped our district with the 2007 bond election and call it “Thank You, Stillwater”.
There were businesses interested in renting the room, but our choice was to say “thanks”
to those who were instrumental in the passing of our bond, which funded Pioneer Stadium,
among other projects.
We also invited the visiting team’s school board and superintendent to join us for a tour/dinner at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m. the visiting team’s guests would leave after I gave them a tour and head to
the visitors’ side for the game.
Then, the “Thank You, Stillwater” guests selected to watch the game from the suite would arrive. We would provide them with dinner and a tour, and then they would remain for the ballgame.
Here is a listing of the groups we invited to enjoy a game in the suite: Bond Promotion Committee, Band Booster Club, Pioneer Booster Club, Stillwater Activities Foundation Endowment (S.A.F.E.), Stillwater Public Education Foundation (SPEF), Teachers of the Year
from each school, as well as two to three teachers and support personnel from each school.
I appreciate the positive comments I received from many of our patrons last week when I
made the decision to close school. It is not an easy decision to make!
Before making the decision to close school, my transportation director and I drive different
parts of the district to check the road conditions.
Adecision is made by 10 p.m. the night before school is closed, or 6 a.m. the day of the closing. Sometimes, we’re able to make the decision earlier due to deteriorating conditions.
As everyone knows, Oklahoma weather changes by the hour.
Only in Oklahoma could we have 65-degree weather one day, and an ice/snow storm the
next! Very rarely do we close school early, because we know it places a hardship on working
parents. However, I would have hated to have one of our pregnant teachers fall on the ice, or a
teenage driver wreck his/her car, all because I decided to keep school in session all day, even
though I knew we had a major ice storm coming.
I appreciated the e-mail from a parent who said, “… the thought of 300 new drivers trying
to leave the high school parking lot on icy roads was very scary to me. Thanks for
ending school early so that our children made it home safely.”
That says it all! As always, I appreciate the support of our community and wish everyone a safe month.
Ann Caine is Stillwater Public Schools superintendent.