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April 21, 2006

2006-2007 School Budget Already Implemented: What's the Current Fanfare About?

The Superintendent, along with the President and Vice President of the School Board, is holding a press conference to announce the 2006-2007 school budget. They're performing as if this is the start of the public discussion of the budget for next year, which it is. While late April may be the first time the School Board and the community have seen next year's school budget, this budget has already been implemented, beginning in early April and possibly earlier -

Was the School Board involved with any aspect of the implementation of next year's budget? NO. On April 3rd, under the Superintendent's direction, all schools received their staffing allocations for the next year - 85% of the district's budget is staffing. The administration says deadlines for layoff notices and surplus notices to teachers per the union contract drive this timeline, because it takes the district two months to figure out who will need to be laid off - last year it was about 10 people who received layoff notices.

What does this reason have to do with School Board's responsibility to see that proposed resources are being allocated according the the School Board's goals and objectives for next year? Nothing. If the Superintendent feels he needs to give allocations to schools in early April, he then needs to present the budget earlier if he is implementing allocations with budget cuts. (I do not feel the School Board understood that the budget is implemented when allocations are given when they set the budget timeline.)

Prior to the implementation of next year's school budget, I believe the School Board needs to know what is in the budget, what cuts (if any) are being proposed, what curriculum changes are being implemented. Also, they need to know what planning is underway in other areas of the budget for next year that is using current staff time and dollars. In order to perform their responsibilities, the School Board needs some form of an Executive Budget that lays out the framework and gives the School Board the opportunity to publicly discuss the Superintendent's proposed changes. I would recommend strongly that the School Board consider this for next year.

When could the School Board do this? I would suggest the School Board consider doing this during the month of March prior to April 3rd if that deadline is firm. Did any budget discussions take place this year, prior to April 3rd and the April 4th school board elections. NO. Johnny Winston, Jr., who chairs the Finance and Operations Committee, held no meetings in March to discuss next year's school budget, so this might be the time to hold those meetings, asking for the presentation of an Executive level budget with proposed changes.

There is another reason to do this - staffing confusion and uncertainty. Building principals give surplus notices, but staff has no idea what the budget is, if the School Board approved these decisions (School Board has not approved the staffing allocations).

I believe budget objectives, an executive budget (by department) and any cuts to the budget need to be packaged together and the School Board needs to publicly discuss this prior to implementation. As one principal said to me years ago, "Once the Superintendent gives us our allocations, there won't be any changes." That's what I have observed over the past five years. By the time the School Board receives the budget document, next year's budget is already in place and being implemented, and the School Board ends up talking in great detail about less than $1 million of the budget, is unable to make/direct changes.

Sure, the School Board has the authority and can make any changes the majority approves, but a) why isn't the School Board "approving" the budget vs. the Superintendent and b) why would a School Board want to waste precious resources implementing and then reimplementing the budget?

Posted by at April 21, 2006 7:38 AM
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