The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 6, 2013

Ringwood school district suffers drastic funding cuts

By Tom Deighan
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Ringwood Public Schools receives its funding a little differently than schools from other parts of the state. Like many districts in northwest Oklahoma, we rely on gross production taxes for our revenue (taxes from oil and gas production).

We do receive funding from the state of Oklahoma, but it is significantly less than most school districts. Ringwood relies primarily on natural gas revenues, since we do not have a large number of oil wells, and as most people know, natural gas has been selling at nearly historic lows recently.

This creates boom-and-bust cycles for schools like Ringwood. In 2008-2009, we suffered a down cycle that forced us to institute a reduction-in-force at Ringwood Schools. During that cycle, our gross production went from a high of $105,000 for the month of October 2008 to a low of $22,000 for the month of March 2009. As a result, we lost 10 percent of our funding. This forced us to lay off Ringwood school staff members.

Our gross production revenues have fallen over the years. And just like clockwork, we find ourselves in another drastic down cycle. Even though Ringwood has grown, our per-student income has dropped over the years — despite a new high enrollment (393).

Several hundred thousand dollars in grants and incredible community support have enabled us to weather these gradual declines in revenue.

Unfortunately, we face another 10 percent drop in overall funding — just as we did four years ago (this is a 40 percent drop in gross production revenues).

We are in another financial crisis, pure and simple. Ringwood needs about $45,000 per month in gross production income for our budget to remain flat.

We are averaging only $26,734.73 per month. If the trend holds, this will be much worse than the 2008-2009 crisis.

We are on track to receive less than half of what we received only four years ago from gross production taxes.

Unlike four years ago, we do not have to lay off staff members. Due to combination of grants, community support and our staff’s wise use of resources, Ringwood can weather this boom-to-bust cycle. Most importantly, we must thank our school board for making the tough choices over the last four years to ensure Ringwood’s financial stability.

After the last layoff of staff members in 2009-10, we made a firm commitment to ensure Ringwood Public Schools would not be at the mercy of another revenue drop.

We have not had a lot of extras as a school district in recent years, but we are in excellent financial shape because of the foresight and vision of these men.

We cannot predict the future, and no school can absorb such revenue drops indefinitely, but Ringwood can weather this storm just fine — even if it lasts a little longer.

That is good news for our staff, parents, and community members — and great news for our students!

Deighan is superintendent of Ringwood Public Schools.