MPS finances stable despite state crisis

Mustang Public School financials are stable, but Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel said he wouldn’t describe them as good due to the state crisis.
“I would start at the state level because everything we do locally is relative to what’s happening in the state. The state is in a crisis right now. I’ve been a superintendent for—wrapping up my 16th year, and I’ve been in education 31 years, and I’ve never seen it like it is right now,” McDaniel said. “That’s two things—one is the cuts that we continue to get, routinely month after month after month, so this is as bad as I’ve seen it. But the other piece of that or result of that, you see at the Capitol—you read it every day, see it on the news—there’s a lot of in-fighting, no one can agree on anything and the politics of the day appear to trump the needs of the kids. I hate that.
“Now locally, we have a finance team in place, and have for several years in this district, and we have fantastic fiscal oversight from our board of education. While we are not out of the woods and are not throwing money around, we are in a stable position despite what is occurring at the state level.”
McDaniel added that over the last three years, Nancy McKay, chief financial officer for MPS, has worked with the finance team and officials to get to where the district isn’t completely dependent on the state.
“So they’re not funding us adequately, we don’t want to use that as an excuse to fail so we’ve done is things like an energy management program,” McDaniel said.
Through the energy management program, officials took inventory of how the district does business from an energy standpoint then changed out lights and set thermostats so that they’re at a reasonable temperature during the day then before and after hours it sets back to 78-80 degrees. The thermostats will be set to 80 degrees during the summer.
By doing simple things through the energy management program, the district has saved more than $500,000 in efficiency savings in two years.
The district also renegotiated all employee contracts. One example McDaniel gave was the workers’ compensation where the district saw their premium basically be cut in half to a little more than $300,000 just through the negotiations process.
They also introduced the after-school care, the Bronco Club, this year which produces revenue, and limit travel for the district that requires tax payers’ funding.
“What we try to do is be innovative of how we can bring additional funds into the district, and because we’ve had people who have been paying attention to that, we’re in a stable position,” the superintendent said. “But, if the state doesn’t get their act together and fund public schools appropriately, locally it’s not going to always be as good as it is now.”
The Mustang Board of Education has a board policy that they’ll put 8 percent of the district’s budgeted number into reserve every year.
“We go through the year and our expenditures and our revenue balances and then we have 8 percent left over as savings. That’s our board policy so we expect to do that this year and we expect to do that every year,” McDaniel said. “We have some triggers in place so that if we see our savings dip under the 8 percent then we initiate what we call our efficiency plan. That just gets us where we make financial decisions that get us back up above the 8 percent.
“It’s just good financial planning. We never want our expenditures to be more than our revenue so it’s balancing the budget and making decisions that allow you to save money.”
Although education budgets are tight across the state, McDaniel said he knows MPS is going to have to hire additional positions to keep up with the growth of the district.
“We expect between 200 and 300 new kids every year, on the low end. So to keep up with our student population growth, we know we’re going to have to hire additional employees. We think we can do that,” he said. “We have two really good things going for us that are both revenue factors. No. 1 is that we get new kids every year and when we get new kids, the state gives us additional money. Our property values are also increasing every year so when you have those two things, those are two of our biggest revenue sources in a public school. As long as those two things are occurring, we’ll be in a position to hire new people and still maintain our 8 percent fund balance.
“So we’re stable. I don’t want to say we’re good or things look great in Mustang because we do rely on state funding. But we don’t want to over-rely on it so when it’s bad, then things tank here. We want to be able to stabilize on our own so if things do go bad at the state level like they are right now, we still have other means to meet our obligations.”
McDaniel had multiple groups of people he wanted to thank for Mustang’s stability and for the continuous support from the community.
First was the district’s patrons and voters who help them to pass bond elections.
“More than now than ever before, bond elections are critical to operating districts because we can do things with bond dollars like purchase textbooks that we used to rely on our operating dollars to do,” McDaniel said.
He also wanted to think the district’s employees.
“Everybody in the last three years has tightened up their belts and have done more with less, like educators always do,” McDaniel said.
He also just wanted to think all the support they get from Parent Teacher Associations, churches, businesses, booster clubs, etc.
“We’ve had lots of partnerships through this and we couldn’t have stabilized without them,” McDaniel said. “So really we’re grateful that we have a wonderful community that supports the schools and a group of employees who understand the situation we’re in. It’s been a difficult thing to go through this funding crisis, but it’s also been very satisfying to see the Mustang community grow together in support of our schools.”

Leave a Comment