By Sara Croce, Chief Financial Officer at Milford School District
Title 14 of Delaware Code requires all Delaware School Districts to establish a Citizen Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) that represents community members, educators and other District administration. Milford School District (MSD) is proud to welcome Dawn Guyer of Lincoln and Cindy Wooten of Milford as new members of the committee. Other members of the community that volunteer their time and services for this committee are Ronald Evans, Sean Kilgore and Brennon Fountain, all from Milford. Each member serves on the committee for a term of 2 years, dedicating their personal time and efforts to help MSD fulfill its mission.
The CBOC helps to ensure that the District is gathering input on budget decisions from all stakeholders so that finances are transparent and accessible to the public. Delaware Code also requires that school district financial reports be posted monthly to MSD’s website. The monthly revenue and expenditure reports are available shortly after the School Board meetings in which they are approved. These reports clearly outline funds that the District receives from State, Local and Federal sources and how those funds are allocated to support our students, staff, buildings and general operations. The state checkbook is also available online. It shows all transactions made by state entities. These tools show the community that MSD is doing its best to hold the line with expenditures and use tax dollars wisely to support the District and the needs of its students.
The school financial system is sometimes difficult to understand. The District earns funding from the State based on units of pupils. At the local level, the district sets tax rates that bring in revenue. Local tax rates are based on home assessment values which have not been reassessed in Kent County since 1987 and in Sussex County since 1974. This presents a challenge to districts, like Milford, who rely heavily on this revenue source to support operations. In addition to State and Local funds, the District also receives some Federal grant funding. Federal grants are awarded for specific purposes such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which supports students with special needs. The District must utilize these funds according to federal guidelines and cannot use them to replace State or Local funds. This restricted funding leaves only State and Local funds to support the general operating needs of the District which have been on the rise. MSD has also had to make some difficult building decisions. The condition of Milford Middle School caused concern for the safety of students and staff, therefore it was closed. Since that time, student enrollment has continued to increase causing most of the other schools to be over capacity according to Delaware Code. This has left the District in the difficult position to ask the community for help.
Although the CBOC is an advisory committee, it is very important to the District to gather the input and feedback from the community to make the best and most informed decisions. This year the District will be working diligently with the community and the CBOC to put together a plan for a referendum. MSD continues to work hard to make changes to cut its budget and put every penny toward investments in the education of the students in this community.
However, MSD cannot continue to meet its needs without the support of its community. The District is working on a new proposal that will relieve buildings of their current overcrowding and give students the advantages that districts around MSD have been fortunate enough to receive. The District’s Administration understands that referendums ask a lot of their residents, but support is needed now more than ever. We want our students to be on a level playing field with the rest of the state and we want them to receive that top notch education here at their home schools. MSD has continued to grow at rapid pace. This year alone there has been enormous growth in students at the elementary and middle school level. Since 2003, the district has gained approximately 450 students while revenue from the Federal and State levels has declined substantially. With the cost of providing education services continuing to escalate, MSD has had to pick up these costs using local funds, but the district has not asked for an increase to the operations rate since 2007.
Over the upcoming months, MSD will be communicating ideas for the future and working with the community to put together a plan that everyone can be proud of. The first CBOC meeting of the 2014-2015 school year will be held October 1, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at the Milford School District Office. In addition to CBOC meetings, the district will also hold Facilities Advisory Committee meetings and regular School Board meetings to discuss the path moving forward and what the best plan will be for students and the community. The District welcomes the feedback from members of the community, our educators and all stakeholders. Thank you for continuing to support the Milford School District and the education of the community’s future.