Running the schools like a business important to saving taxpayer dollars

In 2012, our Board of Education made a commitment to our community that the operating levy portion of the 2012 ballot issue would last three years. Not only have we been able to make the levy last four years, we anticipate it will last even longer.

The ability to stretch a levy cycle does not happen by accident.

In education, “why don’t you run the schools like a business?” is a question we receive on a regular basis. While we are a non-profit and therefore fundamentally different than a for-profit company, in Dublin City Schools we have embraced private sector business concepts and are indeed running the schools like a business in many respects.

As a service organization, almost 90% of our budget is wages and benefits which means any significant cost reductions must come in the area of personnel. We’ve been keeping a close eye on staffing during the past several years and during the last negotiated agreement we were able to reduce our insurance costs. Because such a high percentage of our budget is personnel, we must be very lean when it comes to the remainder of our general operating funds. Any dollars we can save on the operations side of our organization can be redirected to our core mission of educating students.

An integral part of our search for increased efficiencies is the adoption of Lean Six Sigma concepts. Lean Six Sigma is a managerial philosophy used by many of the world’s leading private sector companies, including many located within our District. In 2010, I obtained a Masters of Operational Excellence degree from The Ohio State University in an effort to strengthen my business background as I continued my career as a superintendent. One of the core principles of operational excellence is lean processes designed to eliminate waste and produce cost savings through increased efficiency. One of the many terms for process efficiency is known as Lean Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven problem solving methodology resulting in an improved process or outcome when deployed correctly. The District is fully committed to implementing these concepts and to operating in the most efficient manner possible. Through attrition, and without adding an administrator, we are bringing in an individual to our organization who, like myself, holds a Lean Six Sigma black belt and is going to lead the transformation of our organization into a public entity that provides cost savings to taxpayers through private sector business projects. We have already begun this process through our Coordinator of Operational Excellence Nathan Rohyans who has spearheaded some Lean Six projects in our District over the past two school years. Most recently, Nathan helped us save more than $50,000 in paper costs by streamlining the employee absence process. Any cost savings we can realize through more efficient operations can be directed back to the classroom to impact student learning.

Transparency is another key component of our pledge to our stakeholders to be excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars. Each year we produce a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report designed to provide an in depth look at our expenditures and revenues. Those reports are posted on our web site,, dating back to 2001.

We are going to be able to stretch our levy cycle in spite of the continued flood of unfunded state mandates while at the same time, state funding is stagnant. Only about nine percent of the District’s budget is provided by the State of Ohio. Between 2006 and 2014, our District saw its state funding decrease by more than $30-million. The vast majority of our operating funds are provided by local taxpayers. Dublin City Schools continues to grow, and we are projected to enroll about 3,000 additional students during the next 10 years. While this growth presents challenges it is also a positive for our District. People want to be here, thanks in no small part, to the top tier education our staff provides to more than 15,500 students every day.

As our student population grows, it also continues to become more diverse. We have the fifth largest number of English Language Learners (ELL) in Ohio. More than 60 different languages are spoken by our students.

Some may wonder, doesn’t the District receive additional revenue from new homes under construction? The answer is yes, but the amount isn’t nearly enough to cover the cost of educating a student. Additionally, levies approved by the community cannot grow over time. An approved levy can only ever generate the amount specified in the ballot language and does not grow with inflation or increases in expenditures due to a growing student population.

It is a credit to our finance department that even with all of these challenges, we have been able to stretch the levy cycle. We take our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars very seriously and we are seeing the fruits of those efforts on a daily basis. With that said, we will have to be back on the ballot at some point in the future. Our Master Planning process indicated we will need two more elementary schools, a fifth middle school, additions to two of our high schools, and non-traditional high school space, all within the next 10-15 years.

Our promise to you is we will keep monitoring expenditures, searching for cost savings on the operational side of our District, and we will communicate with you frequently on the District’s financial status.
View text-based website