Comparing Budgets – Not that Hard to Do – Raises Important Questions that Would Be Answered in a Board presentation and Public discussion

MMSD says that you cannot compare the numbers for the 04-05 budget with the proposed 05-06 balanced budget because they were not developed at the same time and do not include all the grant money. Confused? Of course – any reasonable person would expect that the information presented side by side could be compared.
When comparing budgets from year to year, you need to be sure that you have budgets that were developed at the same time of year, or at least contain similar information. I’ve done the entry, which you can download and look at for your self. Here’s a summary of key changes:

Increases from last year to next year:
Elementary Education – $2.3 million (so why is music education being cut 30% and 12-13 FTE’s being laid off?
Educational Services – $1.9 million (increase in special education is $2.9 million)
Teaching and Learning – $427,000
Business Services – $7.7 million (CFO/COO is $6.9 million)
Human Resources – $1.9 million (not salary benefits – those expenses for staff are included in each department’s budget)
General Administration – $500,000
Departments with cuts compared to last year:
Secondary Education – ($2.6 million)
Middle School – ($97,000)
High School – ($2.4 million)
The School Board members need to ask for a presentation of the budget – including a comparison to last year. Board members and the public deserve and want to know what is in the budget – how/what grants are outstanding, how will this affect the FTEs in administration, teaching – we need to hold on major cuts to programs, such as the mean spirited cut to elementary specials and elementary strings. The cut to elementary specials was made without any planning – adult centered decisions because the adults didn’t get to it rather than child center decisions that focus on children’s learning in music education and the positive impact on academic achievement from music education.
If the public is engaged in budget development and knows and understands what is going on Madison is more likely to get child centered decisions and have a healthier and robust decisionmaking process. Too much is hidden in this process.
I’m the Treasurer of the Hamilton PTO, and we have not been contacted by the board or the administration regarding budget/education issues at all this year. These parent teacher groups are one way to get feedback to the board on priorities, and the dialogue needs to be ongoing. I have spoken to other PTO officers and many feel the same way. Being contacted when there is a referendum is necessary but not sufficient.
Download Budget Comparison May budget 05-06 with May budget 04-05
Source: MMSD budget documents – May 2004 budget document and May 2005 budget document.