Saturday, February 26, 2011

Playing Sort-of Hardball With Superintendent

The Garden Valley Daily News gets to put up with small rants (which the editor occasionally enjoys doing herself) and bitching in general, not to mention gentle questions by the more mild-mannered school patron. This quiz is a compilation of taxpayer concerns, regarding the Supplemental Levy election coming up on Tuesday, March 8, put to Garden Valley School District Superintendent, Dr. Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin: I will answer your questions directly, but you and I both understand that it will be the decision of the board and not me when these issues are ultimately decided. I will make a recommendation to the board, and it will be their action that determines what is done.

Garden Valley Daily News: Some people are having trouble understanding the table for the monthly cost of the Supplemental Levy. They have said it does not include the homeowner's exemption and want to know how this works.

Tomlin: The FAQs sheet we have provided, which is posted on the district's website, does include homeowner's exemption. It states that fact directly below the table indicating the cost.

GVDN: Patrons have told us that when they have a problem understanding the FAQs tax table and they have brought it up with the school district, they are told to contact the county assessor for the correct information - do you think it is reasonable to ask every single taxpayer within the School District #71 to call Brent Adamson, when they think the district itself has published incorrect
Tomlin: There seems to be confusion here. We encourage people to contact the county assessor if they are not clear on the value of their home and property.

GVDN: There certainly is some confusion here! Since the tax table in the FAQs sheet appears to be confusing to so many people, there is concern that nothing has been submitted to the local paper or GV Daily News or flyers mailed to patrons, to correct this information or make it more understandable. This appears to be giving the public a message that you either don’t want taxpayers to know the real cost of the levy to homeowners or that your lackadaisical attitude exhibits your ignorance of the calculation and real cost to taxpayers. Please explain.

Tomlin: There is no correction needed - please read the FAQ sheet - "*Dollar amounts are calculated as a per month increase. *Calculations include applicable homeowner's exemption. *Estimates are based upon data collected from the district's fiscal agent and Boise County." We could never legally guarantee that the dollar and cents that will be charged in December by another agency are exact. This is the best and most accurate information available, they are not our numbers, they come from the County. We stand by it. But it still is an estimate, and there is nothing the district can do about that.

GVDN: School patrons complain that the school district has stated many times you cannot tell the taxpayers what will happen if the levy does not pass, because you do not have the state budget yet.

Tomlin: That is simply not true. On our fact sheet item #12 we state what the levy will buy, and in item #15 what a failed levy will force the district to do. We have been very clear on this - however, it will ultimately be a decision of the board, and that decision cannot come until after our budget is received from the legislature.

GVDN: But, still, you are constantly asked to give some substantial information about cuts.

Tomlin: Let's be clear - the district will cut over $150,000 in staff and operations costs IF the levy passes. The exact cuts will be decided by the board, but will include some combination of salary cuts, reduced school days or furlough days, decreasing kitchen staff, decreasing office staff, returning Kindergarten to half-time, eliminating preschool or charging self-supporting fees, combining one or more elementary classes and reducing a teacher, reducing aides/paraprofessionals. The combination of these cuts must equal at least $150,000 or more dependent upon the final budget that comes from the legislature IF the levy passes.**Please note too, that as superintendent, my spending authority is only $3,000. I have never exercised even that amount. All levy monies will be used under the law for the budgeted items approved by the board.

GVDN: So, if the levy passes, will we maintain the Music, Art and Foreign Language programs for elementary as well as the higher grades?

Tomlin: If we cut elementary music, then we end up cutting our teacher's hours and pay. He no longer can afford to work here so he leaves and we lose the entire music program. I am a strong supporter of music, and of K-12 music, and I am on record as such. It is my position that passing the levy protects the K-12 music program. We have said as much in the FAQ sheet that I sent yesterday, item #12 - to "preserve all current K-12 programs." My answer regarding art and foreign language is the same as music.

GVDN: It is our understanding that (one teacher) is talking about retiring. Do your statements assume that this will happen?

Tomlin: My answer is "no," none of my statements relate to losing a particular teacher. I honestly have had no conversations with that teacher regarding retirement. We all know it will be one of these years..., but I have not asked.

GVDN: Is the school going to cut back to the allotted number of administrators we get funding for, based on our enrollment?

Tomlin: Administrators, administrative staff, and administrative overhead costs are all different things. We have already reduced the number of employees in maintenance and custodial. We will reduce the number of clerical/secretarial staff hours for next year.

GVDN: Some people say they feel before any teachers are let go, they would expect the school to cut back on their administrative staff. The school employs more teachers than it gets funding for, but some patrons think the district is more justified in keeping more teachers than administrators.

Tomlin: We probably will reduce and combine some combinations of administrators to include Athletic Director, Technology Director, Principal, and Superintendent.

Please do not consider that a 'non-answer'. We have been discussing many scenarios regarding multiple overhead positions. Our challenge, and it is a difficult one, is to meet regulatory requirements - DEQ, CDC, state and federal reporting, etc. - with fewer people. I am part-time, but none of the reports are. I am working all weekend on our DEQ permitting report that allows us to run our Waste Water Treatment Plant.

GVDN: And other administrative positions?

Tomlin: "The new laws may require our half-time tech director to manage many more computers and online class hardware and hook-ups. That is scary.

GVDN: How would the position of principal change?

Tomlin: The new education laws give far more responsibility to school principals - their evaluations will be tied directly to student learning. This will be a state requirement, and much more time spent by the principal in classrooms and providing in-service to improve all levels of instruction with all children. Believe me this is a bit scary, but the new reality.

So doing away with any position is unlikely. Realigning duties among some positions and gaining a cost savings from that is paramount to us also.

GVDN: When asked what would happen if the levy doesn't pass, Mr. Vian is reported to have mentioned to members of the Senior Center that the district didn’t want to make “threats” regarding what would happen. Some patrons feel they would like to hear possible scenarios of what the school is really up against if the levy does not pass; this could consist of a hypothetical outcome—why is this not possible to do?

Mr Vian reportedly disputed that teachers would be laid off or that programs like Art and Music would be ended. If the district could combine the Superintendent and Principal jobs, kindergarten could go to 3 days, classes combined, Mr. Vian could take a teaching assignment, teachers’ salaries could be reduced and sports would be limited...if this is the case, which doesn’t seem so radical, patrons ask, "why bother with a levy"?

Tomlin: If the levy DOES NOT pass, then the district must cut another $200,000+ and that will be awful. Very likely all athletics will go, some or all elective programs will go. Elective programs at GVSD include Art, Music, Foreign Language, Physical Education, and Business Technology, plus all athletics and activities. These programs will have to be severely cut or cancelled altogether if the levy does not pass.

GVDN: The Buzz Word that we keep getting at these meetings is Elephant in the Room--so, any of those?

Tomlin: For starters, administrative overhead. It will take the same number of custodians and maintenance workers to run the boiler and heating systems and SBR- waste water treatment plant, and to clean and maintain the school whether we have 12 teachers or 20 teachers. We already cut one position in maintenance to half-time this year with a retirement. But legally maintaining our systems and meeting DEQ and CDC requirements to stay in compliance are the cost of doing business on a self-sustaining property.

GVDN: Give us more about administration cuts.

Tomlin: Secretaries do very little "secretarial" work. They spend a great deal of time entering data into state and federal mandated systems. Just this year we gained new required reports from the State of Idaho that requires several employees to spend multiple extra hours each week. Still, we plan to reduce an employee position and maintain the required reports.

GVDN: Okay, Mike here's the big one from Mr. Buzz. What about the Super's job?

Tomlin: Idaho Code requires districts to employ a superintendent. The GVSD super is part-time as a 4/5ths or .8 employee. Most of the superintendent's work involves overseeing "ownership" issues - budget, funding, policy, operations permits and reports with DEQ, CDC, etc., facilities, purchasing, contracts, transportation, food service, and implementing the desires of the board of trustees.

The challenge here is that the state and federal regulatory agencies do not recognize "part time" and the reporting requirements for small districts are the same as large districts. There is no difference in the superintendent's work load if the district has 100 students or 300 students. And much of the superintendent's work is off campus, with the state department, seeking funding with the legislature, advocating for rural school recognition in state policy, etc.

GVDN: What about combining the Super and the principal positions?

Tomlin: The principal's position can legally be combined with the superintendent's. However, the new education laws increase the role of the principal in terms of working with teachers. The principal's main role is to increase student learning at all levels in the school. Continual in-service and improvement of all teachers requires constant time in classrooms, and with data.

The new laws tie teacher evaluations and the principal's evaluations to student performance. This won't be an option if the new laws pass the House and Governor Otter signs them. If the principal's position is cut, the superintendent will be forced to spend hours daily in classrooms and working with teachers - and possibly require the hiring of an employee to assist with regulatory reporting and other "ownership" duties.
The thing to remember, too, is that the state provides 1.8 administrative salaries. If the jobs were combined, only the state would save money--the school district would not.
GVDN: Any famous last words?
Tomlin: The bottom line is that a failed levy hurts the district badly at all levels. Jobs will be cut. Programs will be cut. Children will have far fewer options, and the excellence of the community's school will erode badly~~~

* Garden Valley School District Staffing and Budget *
School & District Personnel (42+)
1. Elementary teachers (7)
L, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

2. Middle School teachers (3)
6, 7, 8

3. High School teachers (9)
Core – E, H, M, S
Elect – A, B-Tech, FL, M, PE
(Some teach K-12)

4. Other Certificated (3.5)
Counselor, Special Education
Technology Director (.5)
Title I Teacher

5. Non-Certificated (6.5)
Preschool (.5)
Para-professionals (6)

6. Administration (3.8)
Principal: K-12 & Lowman
School Secretary, District Secretary
Superintendent (.8)

7. Support (9)
• Maintenance Director
• 1 maintenance worker
• 2 custodians (+ part-timers)
• Food Service Director
• 1 assistant cook, 1 dishwasher
• Business/HR Manager
• 1 assistant accts payable/Purch.

Cuts Already Made
1. Salaries frozen – 2 years.
2. Health insurance cut and capped. ($20,000/yr)
3. Employee benefit of $100/mnth cut. ($50,000/yr)
4. Maintenance position cut to .5
5. Reduced one aide/para
6. Hourly workers cut 10%-20%
7. Athletics cut 15%
8. Technology cut $10,000

Cuts Considered for Next Year
1. Across the board salary (1-3%)
(1% = $19,000)
2. Reduce school days (3-5 days)
(1 day = $7,000)
3. Reduce one secretary
4. Reduce one para-professional
5. Combine elem. Classrooms, reduce one or two teachers
($45,000 each)
6. Cut Preschool; return Kindergarten to half-day

The Numbers Needed
• (-$400,000 = Shortfall)
• $225,000 = Levy amount
• $150,000 – 200,000 internal cuts
Balanced Budget – Programs Intact


  1. Wow, now there's straight talk. Why can't the Idaho World ever do an interview or get the story out?

    Thanks Angel. Much has been cleared up.

  2. I have heard these same statements at every meeting or discussion about the levy, both from Tomlin and from board members. The district is being very consistent with their message.

    This is for the kids, but also for the community. I vote yes!

  3. Execellent information!! Thank you Angel and Dr. Tomlin! I vote YES for the kids!!!

  4. Voting "no" will increase your taxes. The school will be forced to offer only the bare necessities Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. All other programs will be gone including athletics. Families will leave the valley and no families will be moving in. Now, because the same taxes are still due to the county, fire, school bond, etc. those patrons that remain will be burdened with everyone's portion and, yes, your taxes will go up higher than what the school is currently asking in order to cover these shortfalls. Not to mention your property values will go down. Please, in the long run it will cost you less to support the kids now and vote YES!!

  5. Mike:

    Can you tell me the actual dollar amount the 1.8 administrator reimbursement comes to? I seem to remember that the state only funds those positions up to a certain dollar amount and anything over and above that amount comes directly out of the general fund.

    What is the dollar amount and does GVSD have to pay any money or benefits towards the superintendent or principal positions out of the general fund?

    Thank you

  6. Thank you, Angel, for posting this. These are the answers to the questions that keep being asked over & over & over again, with the same answers. I guess if the answers are coming from the administration, there are some folks who just will not believe. I'm voting YES.

  7. new school,higher taxes,levy higher taxes,gas prices up, economy way down, how can you afford to live in gv? pass levy still fire teachers, cut aides, and reduce sports, how can they say a teacher is going to retire when they haven't ask that teacher? don't trust supt. or board, too may different answers since last spring. vote no

  8. Admin is currently at 3.8 and the school gets funded for 1.8??? Sounds like lots of overhead. Also sounds like teachers are taking the brunt of the cuts with the Levy. So the Levy is more to save the current Admin??? Sure would like to see the actual dollar amounts for each funding group. This vote is a "NO"

  9. The district gets funded for "certificated" admin of 1.8 - that is the principal and super, not the secretaries.

    They are funded differently for each category, it appears the list above simply shows who works in what areas. This is explained and re-explained in meeting after meeting.

    You can vote no, but go to a levy meeting and ask your question and vote informed, not uninformed.

  10. But the 1.8 still does not tell the actual dollar amount the state funds for those positions. It's not a blank check. If there is a deficit in the reimbursement, the difference comes out of the general fund. So please tell us the real cost coming out of the general fund to have both a principal and super in Garden Valley.

    I suspect this question will never be answered because we do have to subsidize both of those positions out of the general fund. It's not just salary, but benefits as well.

    It's not a trick question - what does the state pay and what do we have to come up with?

  11. for many years the computor program and industrial arts programs where subsidized by state programs. what happened to these programs? gone now! I heard that these programs received anywhere from $6000 to $10,000 a year just to buy things for there program. what a great bonus for our kids and taxpayers.

  12. Not gone, brought back by the new super and principal, approved by the board. We have Business Technology (I think that is the name) and the district says they get about $6,000 in special funds from the state.

    What a great bonus for our kids and taxpayers. Thanks GVSD! Well done by the board too.

  13. What about the reimbursement for the 1.8 administrators?

    And also isn't the tech teacher free - that's what we heard in a meeting before she came.

  14. the teacher must follow state curriculum, teach state approved classes, have special state certification,approved by state agency, and pass state evaluation. Lots of extra work for teacher up and above normal requirements. the state approves program not supt or board. money is used by teacher for program and approved by state and teacher uses money as they see fit for there program. could be new computors , shop tools,supplies but not desks,or chairs etc.A approved budget is sent to state a year advance,and if approved program receives money.

  15. According to the State Department of Education's data which you can get on their website with some patience and digging, GVSD is reimbursed $96,633.19 for both the super and the principal. According to the super's salary without benefits is $72K. That leaves $26,633 to pay for the principal salary (that salary isn't published yet).

    So it would seem we would likely have to dip into the general fund to keep both positions as they stand right now.

  16. Today I asked the business manager to pull the numbers requested above, then visit directly with the State Department of Education and verify them. That has been done. These are the numbers from the SDE.

    We claim 1.8 FTE, 1 for the Principal, and .8 for me as superintendent. GVSD has historically claimed as little as 1.5, and as much as 2.0.

    The State grants 1.845 plus an additional .5 as a "below 40 classroom unit" floor. Our exact allocation is 2.345.

    We receive $148,700 for administrative salaries. Your principal is paid $60,000, and your super is paid $72,000. Those equal $132,000.

    Because of years experience and advanced degrees, the amount alloted is more than the costs, by $16,700.

    The state reimburses PERSI and FICA, but the district pays a percentage of the health and other insurance for employees. This year that amount was cut and capped at $325 per month. That equals $3,900 each for the two administrators, or $7800 total.

    That leaves $8,900 ($16,700 - $7,800) excess that goes straight into the general fund.

    Your district historically has been very lean in administration, and it continues to be very lean.

    I hope this helps.


  17. Thanks, Mike. I hope these numbers quiet some of the yammering.

  18. Excellent - so if we saved even more in wages for the admin, we could inject more into the general fund. Let's get on that.

  19. Trust but verify.

  20. Don't you folks get it that the district is *required by state law* to have a superintendent? And not a principal? Our principal is not certified to be a superintendent, but our superintendent can be a principal. Just who do you want to put on the chopping block?

  21. We have to have a super but many districts our size or even with more students do not have a super at even .8 FTE as we do. I would favor a combination of the positions or sharing a super with another district. Someone (taxpayers) foot the bill no matter what our reimbursement is. Other districts also do not have a super at our FTE and a full time business manager, each with their own assistants.

  22. 9:58 --

    Please provide references for your assertion that "many districts our size or even with more students do not have a super at even .8 FTE." I honestly want to know.

  23. "Many districts."

    "Other districts."

    Right. Other countries have trash in the streets and no sewers. What is your point?

    Remember that the $148,000 is based upon the degrees and experience of Vian and Tomlin. Take one out of the picture or reduce their time and the allocation goes down.

  24. Argue, argue.

    Some of you people would let a house burn down while you argued about what the fire chief gets paid.

  25. Thanks Mike...very good information to know.

    Annon: 8:17...go back to the other blog where you belong. There doesn't seem to be the "haters" here that that blog has/promotes.

  26. The Dept. of Education sets regulations and requirements of your district as the same with all schools. However, your school is NOT like other schools. Not only are they ensuring our children are learning every day, but they ensure that every federal and state report is done and done correctly. Additionally, they are literally responsible for running a small city. The school does not have city water. The administration is required to test, report and manage the water that the children, teachers and patrons drink. The school does not have city sewer. The administration has a massive technological system that requires testing, reporting and oversight. The school does not require Idaho Power to heat the building. Rather, they have a biomass system with its own regulations and requirements separate from anything anyone has ever seen. All of this is above and beyond what is required of administrators at any other district in Idaho.

    Soon, the laws coming our way will require the principal to be in the classrooms even more than what is required now. Continue stating we need only a .25 FTE or a .50 FTE superintendent and a .25 FTE and a .50 FTE principal is unrealistic. What are you willing to sacrifice for your child and their teachers? Shall we allow them to be sick from tainted drinking water from lack of oversight? Shall we allow them to be sick from a septic system that’s not being overseen correctly? How about football games? The water that is placed on the grass requires an astronomical amount of oversight to make sure the athletes and spectators do not become gravely ill. Someone please choose.

    This board has a responsibility and it takes a .80 FTE supt. to oversee it all and so much more. It takes a full-time principal to ensure our children have what they need to succeed. What are you willing to sacrifice?

  27. the board should not have bought the land that does not perk(sold to school my board member/realtor) if supt must oversee operations of all things in school, why send cody to school to learn testing. every special meeting they talk to school lawyer, whats that cost?

  28. Anon 12:35,

    The super overseeing and managing ownership issues is very different from staff being certified to do the physical work. Why do teachers get certificates? Yet in every school there is a principal overseeing the work.

    The attorney is expensive but ever since Al Marion accused the district of "corruption" and Marion Summers and others made charges and accusations, the board decided to have representation.

    No corruption. No validity to charges. Just a very expensive cost out of our kids' classrooms.

    Thanks "Friends."

  29. Annon 1:16...Amen to that. How can ANYONE question why we have lawyers present at board meetings? The school can't seem to do anything without someone crying foul. Only problem is, it's all been crying, and nothing ever proven. Probably because there IS nothing to prove! Wasted money, that's for sure...but who can blame them. You can't beat a good "friend"

  30. mr. garden was supt and principal and we had horseshoebend kids here, many more students. a good freind doesn't charge $150.00 per hour for advice.important idea. make prinicpal both positions, everyone respects him. send him to school like Fisher, save money and teachers

  31. You can only blame the "friends" so much. They are not behind everything and certainly don't speak for me.

    Al Marion did have reason to say what he did and if anyone had cared to listen at the time I doubt we'd still be talking about it now.

    And let's not assume that nothing has been proven or that Tomlin has not been reprimanded or even disciplined by the board. They cannot talk about it to the general public but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

  32. Annon if it DID happen between the board & Tomlin, then it's been dealt with and life has moved on...why can't you? It's called "water under the bridge"....why keep trying to bring that back up?

    I think you can blame the friends for starting the whole mess!

    Annon 2:49..who is Mr. Garden? You mean Gardner? That's a great idea...send Mr. Vian back to school. Lets see, he's about 63, has been a principal for about 100 years...why are we sending him to school? Big difference between he & "the boy" who didn't even have a certificate to BE a principal. THAT'S why they sent him to school.

  33. Looks to me like the highest percentage of cuts with the Levy will affect the kids and teachers and smaller amount will affect admin in the form of a secretary that is retiring regardless of the Levy. January minutes state that the Super's contract was tabled due to Budget concerns. Pass the Levy = extending Tomlin’s contract. If you do not want Tomlin on the SD payroll, do not pass the Levy and send a message to the Board. It is the community's only tool. Don't let this new found power pass you by. Look over the past couple years at all the conflict that involves the school and Tomlin's name pops up everywhere. He is not good for our community and absolutely not good for our school. May 15th all core teachers up to 19.5 positions will be signed unless that number drops and right now that legislation is stuck in the Senate. Don’t expect much of a drop, maybe .5 at the most. Other contracts can be signed later. Vote "NO". Send a message!

  34. Great, Dave, send a message to cut programs for kids because you don't like one guy, because he stood up to you and your wife and supported the music teacher.

    You people are just mean.

    Forget who is where other than our kids are in school. Vote YES for the kids.

    If you want power, then use it when voting for Trustees. Not by voting against teachers and kids.