Elmbrook’s 2008-09 Annual Report

The school district is out with their annual report. Many of you will have had a copy delivered to your mailbox by now. I’m not sure what happened to mine, but then, I’m quick to send things to recycling some days.

My only complaint is on page 10 where the district tries to justify a high fund balance. Otherwise, the report looks good. I really liked the photos behind the graphs. Also, the district included both academic and regional comparisons. They’re getting there.

I received an e-mail about this report a week or so ago from a reader who said:

We got ours yesterday in the mail. If you were going to mail it and have it arrive – couldn’t it have gone home with kids and only needed to mail to households without kids? Better yet — how about an online version and save the printing costs. Multi-page and color couldn’t have been cheap. Having sat through some of the budget discussions, can’t believe things like this aren’t being looked at closer.

It’s true, the district used to spend a lot on these reports. I wondered if there was a state law that made the report mandatory. I do understand every taxpayer is involved, not just every school family. Here’s my e-mail exchange with the district:

…I know this question came up a couple of years ago. Andy Smith, PR guy at that time, said it was around $19,000 to print and mail the booklets. I was wondering, do you have a cost for this most recent report? Also, and I’ve had no luck finding the answer digging through the school laws, is the report demanded by law? If so, could you offer a statute I might read?

This reader suggested, and I would have to agree, that in today’s environment, a few print copies could be available, but an online version would be appreciated. Of course, if law demands a paper copy delivery, maybe a postcard summary could be mailed with a Web address. Her point, and it’s a good one, is that if the district is supposedly looking at everything to keep costs down, then they better, indeed, be looking at everything, including the cost of this report.

The district reply was fast and courteous:

Costs for the 2008-09 annual report (quantity produced is 22,000) are as follows:

Printing 6,084
Mailing 1,828
Total: $ 7,912

We did take cost-saving measures this year in producing the report. Last year, the total cost for the annual report (quantity 22,000) was $ 12,486. So we decreased the cost this year by $ 4,574.

There is no requirement by law for school districts to publish an annual report, but it is not uncommon. The School District of Elmbrook uses it to inform the community on the district’s performance, as well as invite them to become involved with the district.

So, from $19,280 in 2006*, $18,490 in 2007*, $12,486 in 2008, and $7,912 in 2009.

I will say it over and over again until this school district understands: there is always room to improve the budget. You can see it happening in the numbers above. While I’m glad there’s improvement, I’m also a little embarrassed for them. Where else is our money going that could stand to see this kind of consciencious reduction? District stakeholders are getting the benefit of a report even at these lower costs.

In my opinion, the district still needs to consider an on-line only report. A couple of printed copies could be at each school and the library. They can mail out a postcard reminder for people to take a look. That would get the cost down to under a $1,000 or so.

*Source – an e-mail from Andy Smith. (Nah, I don’t miss him either.)


  1. Send the reports home with the kids, HA! For sure not written from a teacher who know that about 30% of the households will actually receive the reports.

    To put them online only, however, is a great idea.


  2. We just had the mail-out-the-postcard-to-notify-of-report-online discussion at our house about the city newsletter too.

    Another idea would be to notify via email, if the household desired that method. That would be my preferred delivery method.

    Maybe there could be a form we fill out on our property tax bills where we could state how we wished to receive the school and city reports individually? The choices for each would be mail booklet, mail postcard notice, or send report via email. (Obviously, there would need to be a space to submit an email address.)

    I know I emailed Andy about the satin paper report and cost too. I will look for pertinent information.

  3. Here is my correspondence with Andy Smith from July 2007. I had asked about cost and why the report was printed on the seemingly more expensive glossy paper too:

    “Last year’s cost for the annual report was $19, 280. This year’s cost was $18,490. We spent $790 less on this year’s report than on last year’s.”

    “The cost is about 80-cents per copy. This allows us to get the 28-page report into each district residence–including design, printing, mailing & postage– for just cents per-person. We mail them bulk, but for comparison purposes were you to send a simple first class letter, postage itself is over 40-cents.”

    “Some have asked about the use of enamel stock. Please note that the use of a light enamel (coated) paper stock makes charts, graphs and text ‘pop’ with greater clarity for the reader. It is appropriate for this project, though other paper selections are made for other projects for various reasons. Many mistakenly think that this paper costs MORE– not true. The cost of the paper used in the annual report this year is $90.15/M, while the paper used for the quarterly LINK as an example (non enamel, cream color offset) is $111.80/M.”

    That answer of course prompted me to ask,
    “IF the glossy is cheaper (and looks better) why does the district not use it all the time?”

    This is the long reply; probably we’re the only ones interested, Cindy: (For emphasis, I put one sentence in caps. First paragraph was on the numerous paper choices.)

    “…Although a very light enamel-coated paper was appropriate for and chosen as the base of this past year’s annual report, that does not mean that it will be in the future. In fact, very preliminary design ideas for this coming year’s annual report include consideration of a newspaper-type paper stock as one of the possibilities. There are hundreds of choices just in enamel stock alone having to do with weight of the paper, level of shine/reflection of light, thickness of the enamel coating, brightness of the white base which is most often used for such paper, etc.”

    “With the above as background, to directly answer your question: The paper on which the “Link” publication is printed was chosen long before I took over the position. I believe it is an attractive and appropriate stock that presents the information provided in “Link” very effectively. I WOULD TEND TO NOT CHOOSE ENAMEL STOCK FOR “LINK” BECAUSE THERE IS GENERALLY CONFUSION AND STRONG OPINION, ACCURATE OR INACCURATE, ABOUT ENAMEL STOCK (EVEN THE VERY LIGHT ENAMEL STOCK WE USED IN THIS YEAR’S ANNUAL REPORT) BEING AUTOMATICALLY THOUGHT OF (WRONGLY) AS MORE EXPENSIVE. Depending on what is used and how, it is not universally more expensive than all other choices of paper.”

    “As with other areas of district costs in educating the children who attend our schools and informing taxpayers about that work, (paint for instance can be more expensive or less expensive depending on many factors; carpeting can be more expensive or less expensive; light fixtures; … computer equipment; pencils, and who knows how many thousands of other items can be purchased based ONLY on price but without regard to whether it is truly a good value or whether it will achieve the intended result. Sometimes is can, and the least costly is purchased. Sometimes, however, lesser expensive paper is more prone to jamming. Sometimes it doesn’t hold ink well. Sometimes is takes excessively long to dry, etc., etc., etc.”

    I’m glad they reduced the printing costs and chose the less expensive paper despite perception. For me, I would prefer online version. Then I could keep it electronically; it would be one less thing filling up my file drawer!