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Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Order of Business for Mehlville School District is to Cut Spending - Greg Frigerio

Letter to the Editor - Call Newspapers
January 19, 2011

To the editor:

It is time to end the dog-and-pony show regarding cut and spend.

The first order of business is how to reduce expenses. According to the Call, it was approximately a year ago that Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch projected that the Mehlville School District would deplete its operating reserve by 2013 due to a combination of flat tax revenue and state aid tax cuts.

The administrators and the school board think that by spending cuts and spend downs they can get at least to $4.8 million to balance the budget.

The superintendent thinks the board knows the district will not be able to take the $4.8 million right off the top in cuts. So the district will spend down, in other words, withdrawing funds from the operating reserve in combination with cuts to achieve the $4.8 million in moneys needed to balance the budget.

On the district's website there is a contingency plan that identifies approximately $6.8 million in spending cuts. This includes eliminating free bus service. That is another topic for later discussion. If that line item is removed, that still leaves $4.6 million in spending cuts. So can't the board take at least $4.6 million right off the top?

I am not a finance expert, but taking money out of the operating fund below the comfort level of Mr. Knobloch does not seem to be a responsible proposition to me, even if one board member isn't concerned with the bond rating of the district.

The Board of Education should first give the directive to the administration that by March 31 of 2011, it is to have a plan, in writing with specifics, which eliminates 5 percent of expenses from each operations budget.

Sure it's hard, most every business and individual is in the same condition, but that is the reality of how the state of the economy is today and for the foreseeable future. Only when the list of cuts is addressed should they consider reaching into the cookie jar.

The Board of Education should also keep in mind where 62 percent of the school district's taxpayers stand on the district's money issues.

Greg Frigerio


Editor's note: Greg Frigerio serves as treasurer of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that opposed the Mehlville School District's Proposition C.


  1. Mr. Frigerio, if you could explain what exactly this means, I'd appreciate it.

    How exactly do you take $4.6 mill right off the top? How do you propose that? You realize this district has already cut all the extras. Now cuts will be made to programs, materials and staffing, things that DIRECTLY impact students.

    I'd be totally in favor of completely cutting bus service to the state mandated distance, but that's not reasonable due to the diverse socio-economic population we have in our district. Parts of the district will be inconvenienced by that but kids will still get to school. In other parts of the district, kids just wouldn't be able to get to school.

    So again, tell me where you'd make the cuts. I'm truly interested.

  2. Liz,
    I did not come up with the list that takes the 4.6 million off the top. The MSD adiminstrators did. It is on the districts web site under finances; contengency plan. Please read it.
    As far as what I would cut, I could not list all the items here. But the largest part of the budget is salaries and benefits. Those two items equal approximately 75% of the budget. That would be the first place to start. Reducing or freezing salary cost across the board and eliminating positions that are not required by state regulations. Also the MCTA is working on revamping the state pension system. The drag on the district is 14.5% of salaries for the people in this system. This system can not sustain itself the way it is and must be changed. Insurance cost would be shared by the employees up to 50% of the cost.
    Having done some research at other districts bus service I belive the MSD is doing a pretty good job there. Not that there can not be some cuts made. The option is to have the students parents pay for the bus service.
    EC and full day K would be made to have a 5% return on investment, not just break even. Do you think the private programs like Kinder Care run on a beak even basis?
    The remaining cuts would come from the other operations of the district as I said early could not be all listed here.
    The point of my letter is that the administration and the BOE need to stop dancing around the bush. It is time to take action. They have known about these budget shortfalls for a year and nothing is done yet.

  3. Not true, lots of cuts have been made. Lots. And the district DID use the contigiency plan. They DID freeze salaries. They did everything you "demanded." I'm extremely familiar with the contigiency plan, thanks.
    May I just comment that if the EC and K programs ran at any profit at all- there would be 1000s of people concerned that a government agency was attempting to run at a profit. Your committee damaged this district for generations to come. I'm so sorry that some kind of personal grudge your committee has/had against a current or former BOE member or CO staff is so serious that you are choosing to damage our community, our property values and the education of this and future generations almost beyond repair.
    What a shame!

  4. Why does Liz think that MS district residents "damaged" the district merely because they said "No" to another tax hike? District teachers and administrators are acting like 'children' if they cannot understand the reasons behind the 'No' vote. And it saddens, but does not surprise, me that these people would rather throw senior citizens from their homes rather than give seniors the option of voting 'No.' Seniors are finished sacrificing for everyone else's kids. They’ve sacrificed plenty in their lifetime. It's time today's frivolous parents start "sacrificing" for their own kids. They had them. Now pay for them. Liz, you are free to throw an extra envelope into the school offering basket whenever you wish, with whatever amount you wish. No one's stopping you.

    Oh, that's right, Liz. You only want the rest of us to pay more for your kids. You don't want to “buck up” more yourself. Are you even a homeowner, Liz?? You'll spend your extra money on take-out food, cell phones for you and the kiddies, expensive tennis shoes, game boxes, flat screens, cable TV, etc., etc., but not drop anything extra into the school offering basket yourself. Maybe you and the other ‘deprived’ parents should start doing so. After all, it's a "start" toward repairing the "damage" the rest of us have "inflicted" on the MSD.... Go for it, Liz….

  5. We don't have school offering baskets for public schools, perhaps you are thinking of parochial schools? I'm a homeowner. I contribute to my children's public schools AND to my neighbor's children's parochial schools. If seniors are seriously about to be thrown from their homes by a sale on the courthouse steps, they'd clearly qualify for the state's property tax credit. This increase would have had little to no impact on their financial health. Today's "frivolous" parents do sacrifice. Perhaps you could NOT make assumptions about public school parents. Just like I'll not make assumptions about where your "fixed" income goes....
    My mom's goes to trips, casinos and dining out. My grandma's goes straight to her ever growing bank account. My neighbors' goes to dining out 10 times a week or annual 3 week long cruises.
    Perhaps your heirs will care about your property value when they try to sell your house someday. Maybe at that point people in the area will recognize the importance of a great school district for retaining property values.

    BTW, Mehlville was ranked very highly by a D.C. think tank when they reviewed the state's public school districts and the value area residents get for their money.


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