The Budget: Same Service = Cost to Continue = Baseline

Jim Zellmer, and others have taken the district to task for having a “same service” budget – alledging that nothing changes as a consequence.
But let’s clarify the use of some terms. The district uses the term “same service” to estimate the next year’s costs – the city and county do the same thing, but use the term “cost to continue.” This is not the entire process, but merely the starting place. The district and Board then make changes – both to comply with the state revenue caps and to improve our programs. We can figure what the changes will cost (or amount saved) by the difference from the same service budget.
Change and how to achieve it in a large system such as the school district is a major concern. Some changes have significant budgetary impacts, e.g. equipping schools with adequate computers (and the infrastructure to support this), reducing class sizes in the primary grades.
However, the one of the most far-reaching changes needed is to change what is occurring in the classroom. This change is brought about through intensive staff development – and is aided by smaller class sizes, but once the district budget includes funding for staff development and for smaller classes the critical factor is not the budget for these but how the funds are used.

One thought on “The Budget: Same Service = Cost to Continue = Baseline”

  1. Carol,
    Thank you so much for your post. You are absolutely correct, the critical factor is “how the funds are used.”
    Unfortunately, I’ve learned and posted on the blog that it’s nearly impossible to find out “how the funds are used.” When you look at the “mystery series” that I’ve posted, the MMSD cannot tell me how library aids are spent or why numbers in one spread sheet don’t match the numbers in another spread sheet that supposedly shows the income or expenditures for the very same account. Likewise, the MMSD administration cannot accurately tell how much the MMSD spends for Reading Recovery, the temporary education program (TEP) for homeless kids, and a variety of other programs.
    In short, the budget documents don’t tell “how the funds are used.” I hope that you can lead the board toward a more meaningful budget process and document. If you can, I believe that public confidence in the board will increase.

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