The New Albany-Plain Local school board, administration, faculty and staff are committed to our statement of purpose, which is “to create a culture of accountability to achieve the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student.”

The district is dedicated to do so within a sustainable budget.

District leaders’ focus on infusing a “students first” mantra into daily practices and culture applies to budget practices, tightening our belts and living within our means, all while improving academic achievement for students.

After many years of boom-and-bust finances, our current five-year forecast shows the district with an improved positive cash balance through 2021, encompassing the entirety of the forecast period and nearly a decade since our last operating-levy approval. This accomplishment is remarkable for any growing school district and is the direct result of hard work and responsible choices by the board, administrators, faculty and staff.

As the new superintendent, I committed to working with the board and the treasurer to ensure that our practices and financial and human-resources decisions are justified and aligned to improve student outcomes based on a continuous-improvement plan that includes specific goals and progress measures.

We restructured roles, functions and responsibilities, changed hiring practices, cut overtime and reduced expenditures to eliminate projected deficit spending to save taxpayers $1,797,135.88 for fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30, 2017. We exceeded our goal of reducing the budget by $560,000 for fiscal 2017.

Additionally, the board, administration and labor associations reached agreements to reduce health-care costs by redesigning the health-insurance plans. Although fiscal 2017 generated nearly $250,000 in health care savings, fiscal year 2018 and beyond are estimated to generate approximately $500,000 in additional savings annually.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, district employees eligible for health insurance will select from two high-deductible health plans as recommended by the administration during labor negotiations. The traditional PPO health plan will be eliminated and the employee share of insurance costs will also increase from 15 percent to 20 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The board and the teachers union also reached an agreement during negotiations to standardize and reduce salary step increases on the teacher-salary schedule to 2.5 percent annually over 26 steps rather than 16 steps with varying increases. Changes to the teacher-salary schedule will generate long-term savings for our taxpayers while keeping New Albany-Plain Local competitive in the hiring process.