The term fiscal responsibility has two meanings, one used by politicians and one by taxpayers.
A political definition is all about numbers and rules, i.e. the deficit shouldn’t be bigger than x, or the debt ratio shouldn’t exceed y. You will often hear politicians talking about the way they spend your dollars, getting value for money spent, or not wanting to shoulder future generations with debt, especially when they get closer to needing more taxpayer funds.
The second meaning applies to local government entities and involves spending tax money wisely. For example, the current slate of Marysville School board members have portrayed themselves as fiscally conservative stewards of taxpayer dollars, yet their recent actions indicate a different philosophy – spending $2.3M (original estimate $1.2M) on the parking lot, plans to pay $8.9M for the stadium project that will benefit three sports and the salary increase for the superintendent, which brings concern that our local voice is gone.
In looking at the Marysville School situation, the second meaning underscores the need to protect the district from being in the position it was five years ago when the district was in turmoil, 20 percent of the teaching staff was cut and the excellent rating was lost.
At the August 17 meeting, the board voted to grant a new five-year contract, one year before her original contract expired, to Superintendent Diane Mankins for $160,000 per year, effective Aug. 1, 2017. Along with her salary, the board pays for her share of the retirement program, Medicare payroll tax, $2,000 annually for professional organization dues and $2,000 annually for civic organization memberships. It also pays $100/ month for cell phone expenses, $15,000 per year for an annuity benefit, travel expense reimbursement and other expenses. In addition to all of that, the contract provides for a three percent raise in both the second and third years, and negotiations to determine salary increases for the last two years.
Going forward, the additional cost to the taxpayers is more than $120,000. The percentage of raise brought up additional questions. In 2012 Mankins was hired for $138,000, so from that point to the current amount, the increase is nearly nine percent. Even though teachers did get a raise during the same time, Mankins is much higher and will continue to increase throughout the life of the contract. In addition, many teachers had taken zero increases during that time to save their jobs.
Actions like this make us think the board is asleep at the wheel. Member Sue Devine defended the decision by comparing the early contract and raise to the way it is done with salaries in the National Football League. We don’t quite understand what the NFL and Marysville Schools have in common.
Even though we agree that salary comparisons with outside districts aren’t always fair, to put it in perspective, Dublin City Schools pays their 12-year superintendent, who is in charge of three high schools, $163,000 annually.
Marysville is Mankins first stint as a superintendent, and although she promised better results, she has yet to attain an excellent rating for the district. She is also in a position that sooner rather than later she will face the voters to ask for more money. The board has reportedly identified a need for additional funds by the year 2020 to prevent insolvency. With recent property tax revaluations, that would cause taxes to go up even further.
We think Marysville board members need to wake up before they drive the district off the road. We don’t necessarily oppose pay increases when they are reasonable and warranted, but we feel the board needs to pay more attention to the second meaning of fiscal responsibility – spending taxpayer money wisely.
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