June 22, 2017 – Last evening, the Thompson School District Board of Education passed the official district budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. On behalf of the board, I want to extend our sincere thanks to all of the parents, community members and staff who took part in this complex process. The development of the budget takes several months to complete. Department managers begin working with our Business Services team each December to lay the groundwork for the upcoming process and to begin assembling the numbers that will be important in the process. Thousands of hours of collective work goes into the creation of each year’s district budget, including a vast amount of coordination with state and other officials to ensure that it is fully vetted and accurate.
With the passage of the 2017-2018 budget, it has become apparent to the board and administration that a critical path of planning that fully engages the community in an open and transparent way is necessary. That path will be defined by two important goals the board took action on this week. Our Master Planning Committee will be focusing their work this coming year on two charges, one of which is to make recommendations regarding district efficiency and the development of a balanced budget by the 2019-2020 school year. A balanced budget is imperative because of the continuing drain that exists on our available reserves.
Beginning this August and through November, we will be hosting a series of community forums and opportunities for families and community members to help us plan for the future and make the serious adjustments that are needed now in order to meet those charges. These discussions will be tough and complex. School closures will be under consideration, as well as a variety of other options that are all designed to achieve one critical objective: To help the district become as efficient as possible, while ensuring that each student truly has access to resources necessary for an excellent education.
More important than the pattern of budgeting we have lived with these past seven years is the significant erosion of programs and services due to the tough choices we have to make, which impacts what we can provide as a school district. We make painful decisions every year that require us to say “no” to things like new curriculum and textbook adoptions, instructional resources, staff training, competitive salaries, replacement of computers, new technology infrastructure, deferred maintenance, career and mental health counseling services and security enhancements. We have also suffered a drain on our “human capital,” as we have lost many staff members to positions in neighboring school districts. If you consider the cumulative impact of all of this over the last seven years, you can understand why it is so important for Thompson to no longer agree to maintaining “the status quo.” It does nothing but make it even harder to climb out of a very negative situation that is only getting worse. It truly is time to confront these issues head on and make sure our community understands the challenges facing our school district.
None of the items mentioned above include the other budgetary challenges we are also facing. For example, we have a large amount of growth coming into our district, which is creating an influx of students in areas where we do not have adequate school space to accommodate them. Over half of our elementary schools now have student populations of LESS than 300 students, which drastically hurts our ability to remain efficient in our operations. Many of our schools that have open seats are located in neighborhoods where we do not need that extra space. There is also the challenge of the insufficient funding that we receive from the state. We lose approximately $14.5 million dollars each year due to the state’s budget shortfalls for public education.
We need your help and your participation in this process. We look forward to talking to the community about this in the coming months. Thank you again for your support.
Dr. Stan Scheer
Thompson School District