Buzz words like consolidation, restructuring and governance consolidation have provoked plenty of passionate conversations recently. As a result, there are assumptions being made by both parents of school children and tax payers about the future of our schools founded on, you guessed it, rumors. Fortunately for you, the kind folks over at the ACSU are working hard to promote and disseminate actual FACTS. Visit the ACSU District Consolidation webpage to find out the answers to important questions such as:
- What is a supervisory union – and why does it matter?
- What is consolidation?
- What does our current governance structure currently look like? Spoiler – it’s complicated, there are 50+ board members!
- What is Act 46? In case you get lazy* and don’t click, Act 46 is all about School Board Consolidation.
*We’re busy too, so no judgement here. However, while we can assure you that this information is quite boring (sorry), it’s really important! Please take the time to learn more about what’s happening in our schools. Chances are your kids have homework tonight, consider this yours.
Read on for some of our favorite Frequently Asked Questions:
What is consolidation?
Consolidation as advised by the Legislature through Act46 involves merging all of the Districts in the Supervisory Union into a Single Supervisory District. The significant differences would be governance by a single board of directors, replacing the current nine boards; A single budget that includes all proposed expenditures and revenues and results in the same school tax rate for every town, only varying by the influence of the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA).
It does not mean consolidation of schools; on the contrary the legislation provides incentives that make it possible for our small rural schools to thrive. There are numerous opportunities to streamline process, react quickly to opportunities and challenges, and realize operational and fiscal efficiencies.
Why are we doing this, and why so quickly?
While merging into one school district has many good reasons, the Legislature, when it passed Act 46, provided significant financial incentives for moving quickly, including: a reduction in property tax rates of 10 cents the first year, 8 cents the second, and declining for five years to zero; maintenance of the Small Schools Grants for our rural elementary schools; $150,000 grant to help with the process; and continuation of the “phantom student” provisions.
What happens if we decide not to do this?
Act 46 calls for the Secretary of Education to assign school districts to a larger school district by 2018 unless that smaller district can present a compelling case to remain independent. Because our school system already has a unified middle and high school, it is logical that the Secretary of Education would force the merger of the ACSU schools into one district anyway, but without all of the incentives provided under the accelerated merger plan. That would include the loss of the Small Schools Grants.
Where would the streamlining savings come from?
One major example would be in business operations. Currently, the ACSU business office must create nine separate budgets, have nine separate audits and provide regular financial reports to nine separate school boards. That takes an enormous amount of staff time. In a merged district, it would be reduced to one budget, one audit and reports to just one board.
There are many other opportunities such as shared administrative staff, shared janitorial and food service staff, and joint bids for services such as lawn mowing. The list of opportunities is long.
With the end of our local board, what role does the community have in our school?
The culture of each school really isn’t driven by the school board. It is driven by dedicated parents and townspeople who take an active role in their schools through parent organizations, by volunteering during the school day and for after-school activities, by sponsoring and running events, by coaching sports, directing plays, and teaching about the environment. Those roles and needs will not change.