Making Sense Out of the Forest Hills Public Schools’ Budget
How are we funded?
Property taxes are not the sole source of funding for Forest Hills Public Schools. Legislators set the per-pupil allowance based on revenue the state anticipates receiving for the fiscal year. Sources of revenue include property taxes, sales tax, lottery, and other taxes.
Forest Hills’ residents and business owners pay more into the School Aid Fund than the district receives from the state in the per-pupil allowance.
In fiscal year 2007, Forest Hills received $8,312 per pupil. In fiscal year 2018, we will receive $8,289 per pupil. As you can see, Forest Hills is receiving less per pupil in fiscal year 2018 than it did in fiscal year 2007.
Forest Hills Public Schools convened a Revenue Task Force to develop ideas that would generate revenue outside of the traditional per-pupil state funding model. The task force, comprised of members of the Forest Hills’ community, generated nearly 120 ideas that are being reviewed for feasibility as either one-time or ongoing revenue opportunities. Thirty years ago the Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation (501C3) was formed to fund a variety of creative, progressive educational programs that are outside of the traditional school budget. The Foundation is playing an increasing role in school funding.
How do we spend money?
As indicated in the video, 85 percent of Forest Hills’ budget is people. Today teachers are paying more for their health care and retirement than in previous years. As a result, teachers are receiving less “take home” pay. While there have been increases, there have been several times when staff members have taken a pay freeze.
In November 2013, the voters in the Forest Hills Public School District approved a $45 million bond issue to address technology, security, and building improvements. This has been instrumental to address these three areas. By law, bond funds can only be used for purposes such as building construction or renovation, purchase of equipment and technology, and to purchase buses. Bond funds may never be used for salaries or even the day-to-day expenses of running the school district.
In the last two years, the district has had larger graduating classes than incoming kindergarten classes. This is due to a lower birth rate not only in Kent County but the nation. In Forest Hills, there is a difference of approximately 170 students between the graduating class of 2017 and the 2018 incoming kindergarten class. However, that loss was lessened by growth at almost every other grade level across the district.
To cover general increases for utilities, increased costs, and even employee wage increases, an additional $2.2 million is needed each year. To enhance what we do, at the very least, the district would need an additional $3 million every year. Forest Hills has made budget cuts. We have not replaced staff members when they retire, and we have asked our staff to take on more responsibilities. Cuts are no longer sustainable. We can’t cut and still give families what they expect, want, and deserve from our school district, like smaller class sizes, the continuation of three high schools, top-notch programs and so much more.
How can you be part of a solution?
Become involved with your public school. Volunteer, attend events, reach out to school organizations and school principals to see where your skills may best be used. We need everyone…parents, senior citizens, business leaders, single professionals, retirees, alumni and our entire community working together to help our schools succeed in their mission.
The Foundation is a separate 501c3 non-profit organization providing grants throughout the district totaling over $1.3 million since 1986. It funds a variety of creative, progressive educational programs outside of the traditional school budget. The mission of the Foundation is to provide funding for all areas of academic excellence in Forest Hills Public Schools. More information can be found on the Foundation’s website: www.fhpsf.org
The Foundation supports academic excellence by distributing funds to be used throughout the district primarily in the form of teacher and staff grants. For example, Destination: Innovation Grants support advanced teacher training by funding the exploration of new learning methods, structures, and ideas. Individual teacher grants support the promotion of academic and arts excellence through programs or activities related to curriculum. In addition to these two grant programs, the Foundation also coordinates the Support Our Schools initiative which gives individuals an opportunity to support or fund a specific need identified by principals at each school. This is just a sampling of the many ways the Foundation supports the district.
There are numerous ways to support the Foundation. Events such as the Foundation Gala, the Business Breakfast, State of the District Luncheon and the Charlie Anderson Memorial Golf Tournament are yearly fundraisers which help support the Foundation’s goals. The Foundation also conducts an annual appeal each December, and a staff fund drive.
For additional information about the school district’s budget, please contact the Forest Hills Public Schools Business Office, 616- 493-8804.