April 25, 2014
Seven years ago when I came on board at the helm of Piqua City Schools the Piqua Board of Education and I heard the “call” from our community for quality stewardship in both the educational and financial operationsof our school district. At that period of time, like the rest of the state and nation, our community was being thrown into an economic downspin. From that “call” we developed a Piqua Taxpayers Bill of Rights which guides our district team and provides a daily reminder of our pledge to every taxpaying citizen to focus on stewardship. This focus is centered on providing quality educational experiences and opportunities while living within our budget.
We recognize that since the 19thcentury, public schools have depended on citizens for the support necessary to educate children. We also recognize we are blessed in Piqua to have an extremely supportive community! The Piqua Taxpayers Bill of Rights is founded on making every effort to focus spending on classroom instruction and our children. Over the past years we have streamlined operations and gained efficiencies in targeted areas while providing great opportunities and experiences for our students.
To help in these efforts a Superintendent’s Executive Advisory Council, comprised of independent community leaders including business and finance experts, was established to meet on a quarterly basis to review District operations and provide discussion of local, state, and national economic trends in correlation with Piqua City Schools. This group of individuals has served as a great resource for me in the business side of our operations and also as a reminder of the quality workforce needed for our future. I greatly appreciate the members of the Superintendent’s Executive Advisory Council and the volunteer service they provide our district and community!
The Piqua Taxpayers Bill of Rights also provides a challenge for our district to continually strive to find creative ways to operate and save taxpayer money while at the same time serving our students with qualityeducational opportunities and experiences. One great example of such creativity is the new course offerings being offered at our high school next year while not increasing our staff. This feat has been accomplished by allowing our staff to evaluate their skills and talents and match them with the needs of our students and the demands of business, industry, colleges and the job market. These course adjustments provide our students with the career and college readiness experiences needed to better compete. This example of continual review, revision and implementation of programming to meet the needs of our students and community while living within our means is just one example of our commitment to stewardship.
Another great example of increased efficiency has occurred in our transportation system.Four years ago we instituted a software program to manage our bus routing system. By utilizing technology we have been able to better analyze and plan our routes more efficiently to the point of the elimination of one complete route. We have also experienced savings in transportation by replacing six old 72 passenger buses with new 84 passenger buses. This strategy has improved efficiency in both daily routes and also with fieldtrips and extracurricular activities by expanding student capacity and eliminating the need for additional buses.
The Piqua Taxpayer Bill of Rights also addressescommunication with our community about the financial dealings of the district. We have our budget information available and accessible through our website. We also provide monthly financial reports at the monthly Piqua Board of Education meetings which are open to the public and televised. Our district also has an annual audit conducted by the Auditor of the State of Ohio. We also participate in a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and in conformance with standards of financial reporting established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
While we have increased our efforts to communicate to our community we have also increased opportunities to receive input and hear from our community. Our tag line “Good Schools Good Value” emerged from community member input through surveys completed during the past six years. Currently as we start our annual strategic plan review and revisionwe have placed a “call out” to our stakeholders for input as we plan for the future. Our website also has a tab called “Heard It through the Grapevine” which provides our community members the opportunity to ask questions or request clarification about our district. During a presentation this week a community member shared he felt it was time for our tag line to be modified to“Great Schools Great Value” to which I shared “That is our goal!”
For me the Piqua Taxpayer Bill of Rights serves as a pledge and commitment to our community that we will be great stewards of our school system. That pledge and commitment also means keeping our promise! During the bond issue for our new buildings we promised to continue to live within our budget and to keep our financial ballot requests for the next two years limited to renewals of our five-year levies. As part of that promise, last year we asked for the renewal of the five-year operating levy and our community provided the support to extend it for an additional five years. Thank you for the support! This year we are on the ballot May 6th asking for the renewal of the permanent improvement levy for an additional five years. Although our district funding from the state and local property taxes has been inconsistent we remain loyal to our promise by requesting a renewal of the permanent improvement levy instead of requesting additional funding.
Public schools do depend on citizens for support necessary to educate our children and we are fortunate at Piqua City School District to have a community aware and understanding of this concept! Thank you for your continued support!
Rick Hanes is the superintendent of the Piqua City School District. Rick continues to ensure that the Piqua City Schools show residents the “Good Schools, Good Value” that they are each day. You can follow him directly on Twitter @raheducator.