Sunday, March 17, 2019

Understanding Building Projects...

During the course of the year, you can hear a lot of things related to building projects that are frustrating to the general person; mostly because they don't have any working experience with the intricacies of a public school project. More challenging, during budget season (and when things are difficult); a large majority of people like to point fingers at building projects in an attempt to place blame somewhere. Unfortunately, placing blame and pointing fingers is the last thing that any community needs when attempting to band together to achieve what they are justifiably due. Regardless, people do it because that is our human nature; which is perfectly fine. However, in an effort to help people understand building projects; here are just a few points of information that may help you realize their impact on the school budget, taxes, and expenditures.

While educating the Board of Education about school budget the last two years, I have explained that school finance is nothing like personal finance. Money does not come from one source. Money comes from multiple sources. There is not one pot of money that is used for everything that a school needs, like our personal lives. With building projects, the money used to perform work does not come from our general operating budget. The expenses of a building project have zero impact on the school budget; if planned correctly. Each school in a district has what is called a Maximum Cost Allowance (MCA), and as long as the project stays under that cap; the project can be fully fundable by the State Education Department (SED). For the actual work, the finances are bonded (borrowed) somewhat similar to a mortgage and the district repays the bond at a flat amount each year for all projects combined; thus having a zero impact on the operating budget.

Further, building projects generate revenue for a district. This is the exact problem that we have in Rome. If building projects are done continuously each and every year, with a little work being done on every building (much like home maintenance), then there is a steady revenue stream flowing into the district. This revenue stream is the reimbursed money from SED to help pay for the bond. Fortunately, the revenue is greater than the yearly payment; which nets to a positive cash flow for a school district. Unfortunately, many years ago, Rome chose to take the path of waiting until the buildings were completely in need of repair, instead of doing ongoing maintenance and building projects. This causes giant peaks and valleys in the revenue stream and taxes. If done continuously, with a predictable amount being allocated for improvements, a community will never see a tax impact from a building project. If done in the manner in which Rome chose 20 years ago, then there will be times when a tax increase may be asked for and/or a tax credit may be seen when a large project is completely paid. 

The process is very complex, and not easily understood. As mentioned, the two most non-understood facts are that the finances from projects do not come from the general operating budget and a building project generates revenue for the district. Building projects are one of two controllable revenue sources for a district. Aside from taxes and building projects, we are at the mercy of the state legislature to fund our schools. We will continue to provide information on school building projects to help people understand the facts surrounding them instead of urban legend that arises when people are upset and wanting to place blame. Hopefully, as a combined force and a true community, we can continue to come together and work as a team to lobby the leaders in Albany for what we are due.

NYSED Parent Dashboard

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is developing a Parent Dashboard to increase transparency and make information about school performance and other school-level data easier for parents and the public to access. This is part of our state's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. NYSED is gathering feedback from parents and stakeholders to guide the work of developing the Parent Dashboard. Please consider completing their five-minute survey and tell NYSED how the Parent Dashboard can be as useful as possible. NYSED will use feedback from the survey to identify the data that is most useful to parents and the public. Informational resources in English and Spanish are available on our Parent Dashboard web page. If you have any questions, please feel free to email NYSED at

Music in Our Schools Month

The month of March, each year, is designated throughout the country as Music in Our Schools Month. During the past two weeks, and over the course of our next two weeks, our students and their teachers will be celebrating the month with performances. Thanks to the fine work of our music department teachers, our students have increasing opportunities to engage in music and expand their cultural understanding of the world through this art form. Each year, our enrollment numbers grow in our extra curricular music programs, and the quality of performance is improving at a rate faster than that. Thank you to all of our staff members who work each day to make our music programs what they are, and to the students for their dedication and effort to the art of music. 

Suitcase Art Show

Thank you to the Rome City School District Art Department for once again putting on the annual traveling art show throughout the Rome community. On March 7, the show opened at the Willett Center. Over the next two months, the show can be seen in different locations. The art show will remain at the Willett Center through March 26, then can be seen at Community Bank from April 3-22, and will conclude at Artistry Studios and Gallery from May 1-21. Congratulations to all of the students whose art work is displayed and don't miss this opportunity to see the amazing talents of our young artists in Rome!

Dialogue Event

On Monday, March 25, 2018, we will be hosting our annual Dialogue with the Superintendent event at Strough Middle School from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Auditorium. The event is intended to provide families an opportunity to ask questions through the submission of a question card and elicit an on the spot response. All questions are anonymous. This event is open to ALL parents and community members in the District and is not specific to any one given building. For more information or if you have questions, please contact the District office.