Every May and October, the Ohio Department of Education requires an update of the five-year financial forecast of all public schools. The purpose is to provide a planning tool for Boards of Education to analyze the trends within the school district budget. Tallmadge City Schools recently published a lean but stable five-year financial forecast.

Much of this stability can be attributed to our school district's focus on conservative fiscal management and efficient budgeting. After a $4.2 million reduction in revenues over the past six years, we've reduced spending and streamlined our expenditures in major areas. The elementary schools have been consolidated from three buildings to two. Three administrator positions have been eliminated. Teachers and staff are paying more for health care. Operations are more efficient, and we've leveraged purchasing consortiums to bring our buying costs down.

These tough decisions have paid off. Our payroll is the same today as it was 10 years ago. Our overall operating costs are the same as they were in 2007. The district and Board have enacted a sensible and efficient budget for taxpayers, while achieving an "Excellent with Distinction" performance in the classroom.

One of the key components of school funding for any district is the revenue support received from the state. For Tallmadge Schools, this represents roughly 33 percent of our general fund revenue. After years of funding cuts from the state and federal governments, our schools received a modest increase in state funding. In fact, this was the first time in 10 years our schools have seen an increase in state funding of any kind. These dollars come at an important time with the new state requirements for learning, testing and staff evaluations, as well as the expansion of school choice and vouchers.

A challenge we face that impacts our bottom line is the ongoing maintenance of our older school buildings. While we work hard to care for our K-8 school buildings, the expense to operate and maintain 50- to 60-year-old buildings is a heavy burden. This burden becomes harder to justify when the buildings do not accommodate the demands of 21st century learning and hinder Tallmadge's ability to stay competitive. Today's curriculum calls for flexible spaces, integrated technology and accommodation for special needs students. We've reaped the benefits of a modern building at Tallmadge High School and many of our neighboring communities are seeing the benefits of modern K-8 buildings.

The Tallmadge community has made it very clear it wants a solid educational product at a great value. We agree, and we are working hard and in a very transparent way to communicate with our residents about both the good news as well as the challenges facing our district. We look forward to this continued dialogue and deciding what it takes to maintain and protect excellence in both our community and schools.