Miami Trace Local Schools Treasurer Debbie Black said the district is fiscally stable, and broke down some aspects of its finances Monday during the “State of the District” event at Miami Trace High School.
Black began with an explanation of how the district funds work. Miami Trace has approximately 150 accounts Black keeps track of, including the general fund, accounts for student support, accounts for building and capital projects and much more. She also explained that a 56.3 percent share of the general fund revenue comes from local contributions including property tax revenue, 41.2 percent of the revenue is state-generated, and only 2.5 percent comes from other sources.
Expenditures on the other hand are much more diverse, but one aspect continues to dominate over 50 percent and that is salaries and wages. In the fiscal year 2019, Miami Trace spent approximately $15,227,000 in salaries and wages — though this only counts employees paid with the general fund while some teachers and paraprofessionals are paid from grant funds. The next largest portion of expenses is fringe benefits which made up 21 percent. Fringe benefits include retirement, health insurance and others required by Ohio state law.
“Also passed tonight by the board of education, we are seeking to complete another bond refunding,” Black said Monday evening. “A bond refund allows us to essentially refinance. Imagine this process as refinancing your mortgage at a lower rate so you have less interest to pay on and therefore have to pay less over time. We have done this in the past, back in 2013 and 2014 it had a combined savings to taxpayers of over $1,686,000 over the life of the bond issues, but after reviewing some of the bonds, we are now preparing until March when we can hopefully do it again.”
In an interview Wednesday, Black further explained this process by saying it is essentially reducing the taxpayer bill and is determined by what is called “callable bonds,” or bonds that may be eligible for lower interest rates for one reason or another. What deems a bond as callable or not is determined by the bond itself and could be as simple as waiting through a certain timeframe.
Finally on Monday, Black emphasized potential issues when determining the budget for the district. On the revenue side, Black said she is constantly looking at the local tax structure — changes in property valuation and the expiration of an emergency levy — as well as state funding to properly estimate how much the district has available. In expenditures, significant areas of attention are in health insurance costs and instructional needs. Whether this means she is looking over medical claims within the district, watching to ensure premiums are being paid, or looking to make sure technology budgets are in the black, she said she will work to make sure expenditures are never greater than revenue.
Also presenting on Monday was the district’s instructional technology director Amy Gustin. Gustin began by explaining the benefits of technology for the students — including helping connect students to the real world, encouraging collaboration and self-directed learning, and supporting different types of learners — and further emphasized the one-to-one initiative that brought devices into the hands of every student in the district.
“As part of our mission statement, it is my responsibility to provide the staff of Miami Trace with educational technology tools that will assist them in providing a quality educational environment for their students,” Gustin said. “When referring to Edtech in the classroom, it is important to remember that our primary focus is always on the education and that technology is just a delivery tool.”
Gustin further explained that 75 percent of the curriculum taught at Miami Trace is online. She explained that the main benefits of an online curriculum are personalized assignments and assessments, interactive lessons and presentations, up-to-date content, and on-the go learning. As an assist to students and staff, Gustin said they use Clever as a secure single sign-on portal. Staff and students no longer need to remember all of their user names and passwords, and all e-textbooks are available in one place allowing for easy access for students and parents from home and school. Gustin said that younger students or students with special needs can also scan badges to access their portals a lot easier.
“We are also currently in the process of adopting Sora — an online application that will enable students to have access to a large selection of ebooks and audiobooks,” Gustin said. “A benefit of a digital library is access to an enormous amount of resources – both from our district digital library as well as direct access to our public online library, InfoOhio. Other benefits include instant access to educational content, elimination of wear and tear on hard copies, adaptations for various learners – such as increase font, dyslexic font, highlighters, font and background color changes as well as audiobooks for auditory learners. Digital libraries are also convenient for users as they can get access from a mobile device, tablet, iPad, kindle or webpage.”
The technology director finished her presentation by talking about current and future projects.
“We are now fortunate to have a computer technician in each building,” Gustin said. “Ryan Tarbutton provides services to the high school. Matt Gallimore works at the elementary school and Josh Mullen at the middle school. Jimmy Enochs is our network coordinator, he is responsible for our network which includes the servers, switches, filtering software and much more. Miami Trace is almost ready to launch a new and updated website as well. This new website will provide easy navigation with a trendy new look. District news, highlights, upcoming events, and social media links are just a few of the main page features.”
Finally, business manager Bill Franke spoke about, “Buildings, beans and buses.” According to Franke, his main job is to support the educational process and the vast majority of this over his past 15 years on the job has been construction.
Within his presentation, he shared what the last decade-and-a-half has accomplished. The new school buildings were all completed in this timeframe starting in August of 2008 with the elementary school and ending last year with the completion of the high school. Also completed were the transportation/maintenance facility in October of 2010, the administrative offices in November of 2009, the Miami Trace Learning Center in August of last year, and new tennis courts, a baseball/softball complex and the football stadium upgrades which were started at various times since 2010 and completed by 2019.
“The new and upgraded facilities represent over a $100 million dollar investment in our kids and we thank you for your ongoing support,” Franke said.
Franke also shared the success of the food service department thanks to Gary Campbell, who he said has developed a state-wide reputation for his innovations and quality food offerings. The food service department is now made up of a dedicated team of 27 employees, and in addition to a wide array of a la carte offerings Campbell worked to get implemented, the team also serves over 186,000 lunches and 75,000 breakfasts each school year — and this number continues to climb.
“Now in terms of buses, we have a lot going on thanks to the transportation department head Joni Daniels-Blouse,” Franke said. “The district is over 400 square miles, which is among the largest in the state of Ohio. In a day we travel a combined total of over 4,400 miles. That is like traveling to California and back in a single school day. This is thanks to the fleet of 38 school buses and 20 trucks and vans. We use an advanced GPS fleet monitoring software, buses feature as many as seven cameras with DVR, and our current replacement plan is about three buses per year or after 12 to 14 years and 250,000 miles.”
Finally, Franke explained the work that has gone into keeping the students safe. This includes all of the hardware, such as building cameras, access control and safety radios as well as a MARCS radio booster system that helps first responders have clearer lines of communication while on campus. Not only hardware is utilized though, as several apps and filters are utilized by the school to help students or teachers respond to potential threats on campus or keep students in safe, appropriate areas of the internet.
And finally, this has led to Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Monty Coe and Student Safety and Attendance Coordinator Jack Anders being posted at the campus, as well as ALICE training for staff to ensure student safety in the event of an emergency.
Stay with the Record-Herald for more coverage of Miami Trace Local Schools and its board of education.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.