Friday, June 22, 2012

Tipping The Scales: A Side-By-Side Comparison of the Merger With The Separate Districts

This post is about a side by side comparison of the reality of merging the three districts, versus what the districts will have separately if no merger were to occur. Sometimes it’s helpful to see them in terms of a balance scale, with the merger on one side, and the non-merger on the other. These are simple facts, comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

EXPENSES: Let’s start with the basics of the economics of merging the three districts. As seen on the scale below, the districts total anticipated expenditures for the 2012-2013 school year would be about $63.3 million. A merged district would have a proposed budget that is very similar, coming in at about $63.9 million. That is less than 1% higher and of course comes with a LOT of additional course offerings, extracurricular activities, transportation support, etc. In the end they are pretty close to being equal in terms of how much money the districts would spend regardless of whether they merged or not.
REVENUES: But what about the revenues available to the districts ?  Regular state aid monies are anticipated to be identical, regardless of whether the merger takes place. The three districts would get about $41.3 million in state aid separately in 2012-2013. That is the same anticipated regular state aid that the merged district would get. So the revenue side of the budget would be identical regardless of whether the merger occurs or not.
INCENTIVE AID: If the expenditures and the revenues are going to be the same, then what’s the fiscal advantage of merging? That’s where the incentive aid comes in ! Almost $59 million in incentive aid will ONLY be available to the merged district. Let’s repeat that – $59 million will ONLY be available IF the three districts go ahead with the merger. The proposal is that this will result in (at least initially) $6.2 million more each year !

So fiscally a merged district:
  • Doesn’t cost anything more appreciably to run (less than 1% more in cost)
  • Get’s the same amount of regular state aid
  • Receives $59 million in special incentive aid

So the question is: Do we want to leave $59 on the table for some other districts in another part of the state to use as part of their merger ?

ACADEMICS: This is of course, not just about the money ! It’s also about the students and their educational experiences. What does a merged district offer compared to the three districts remaining separate when it comes to academics? It turns out, a lot ! When you look at just the core courses (English, Math, Social Studies and Science), students gain a huge advantage by being able to access more classes. In addition, language, technology, art, and music courses will be expanded in both the secondary and elementary schools ! There is also a big jump in the exposure that secondary students will have to Advance Placement and College Now opportunities. Almost 25 AP or College Now courses will be available in the new district. That translates into about one out of every six course that can provide a student with college credit !


So as you considered the merger of the three districts versus keeping them separate…

…Consider expenditures: they are almost identical;
…Consider revenues: they will get the same amount of regular state aid;
…Consider access to incentive aid: $59 million IF the merger takes place, $0 if it doesn’t; and
…Consider the academic opportunities gained through merging !

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