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Tough talk on OPRF's spending

Opinion: Editorials

December 11th, 2018 12:50 PM

By Editorial

Our Views

The recommendations this week from the OPRF superintendent to the school board on initial steps in implementing the Imagine OPRF facilities master plan are encouraging to us. With a strong focus on updating dozens of classrooms, special ed spaces, student gathering spots and ADA and security updates, Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams chose an equity forward path that we strongly support.

Those recommendations price out at $32 million, a not-insignificant sum. Using existing cash reserves to fund these projects seems to be the recommended route. Another solid recommendation.

The board's discussion of these recommendations began on Tuesday evening after press time, so it is not certain how these ideas were received. We will certainly be following up in our news pages and on this editorial page.

Coupled with the facilities recommendation at Tuesday's board meeting was a very strong, and to us persuasive, memo from Robert Grossi. He is an interim consultant to the district as it works toward hiring a new finance manager.

In just two pages, Grossi lays out some hard financial truths for District 200, which tell us that, if the board concurs, this district is beginning to grasp the limits of its ability to address challenges simply by spiking property taxes. 

Grossi notes the district is "in very good financial condition now." That will happen when you illicitly pile up $100 million in taxes not directly approved by voters. But he says, if new revenues are stuck at under 2 percent a year and spending by the district continues at a rate that mostly doubles the new income, the district is "extremely vulnerable to exploding deficits and rapidly deteriorating fund balance reserves."

Grossi closes by saying after the district diverts a portion of the cash reserve for facilities investments, that effort "must be paired with commitment by the district to align future expenditure growth to future revenue growth." Getting there, he says would require "reducing expenditure growth at a level at or below the future rate of revenue growth."

In other words, this school historically has a spending problem and voters won't sit idly by and pay endlessly for this proclivity.

These are good lessons. If overdue.