I have been trying for weeks to get a handle on how much the MMSD spends on various programs. As I’ve exchanged e-mails with Roger Price and Superintendent Rainwater, it has become clear that the MMSD cannot (or will not) provide figures on how much was budgeted for any particular program in the previous year, how much was spent in the previous year, and how much was budgeted for the current year.
Calculating and providing those three sums creates a “transparent” budget, i.e., a budget that allows the average citizen to see where the money came from and where it went.
Since school board elections began more than nine months ago, various people have called for a more transparent budget process. In attempting to get figures on Reading Recovery, I said to the superintendent in a recent e-mail:
Those of us who follow district activities are looking for some transparency in the budget and administration decision-making, meaning that the budget clearly documents where money comes from and where it goes — a goal that I hope that we all share and will achieve in the next budget.
In response the superintendent wrote:
In regard to your concerns about “transparency” in the budget the Administration operates within the policies and procedures established by the elected Board of Education. I believe that the budget does clearly document where the money goes and where it comes from in a format that meets Generally Accepted Government Accounting Standards and the requirements of the Department of Public Instruction.
Then he hoisted his favorite dismissal of suggestions about how the MMSD might improve operations and information:
Obviously each individual person wants the budget to reflect his/her own individual detailed interest. That is not possible in a document intended for general distribution. The District’s finances are audited every year by an independent auditor.
In other words, “Ed, but you are one individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.”
Likewise the superintendent is saying:
Thank you very much, Barb Schrank, but you are one individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.
Thank you very much, Larry Winkler, but you are one individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.
Thank you very much, Jim Zellmer, but you are one individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.
Thank you very much, Joan Knoebel, but you are one individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.
Thank you very much to the 24,360 who voted against the referendum on the operating budget, but each one of you is only an individual, and the MMSD is not going to produce a transparent budget.
I offer this analysis to try to convince the superintendent and board that the majority of voters rejected the current budget process when they rejected the referendum question on exceeding the revenue caps. If the superintendent and the board want the next referendum to pass, they will have to win the confidence of voters with a new budget process that voters can easily understand.