I sent this mail to the Madison Board of Education regarding the current budget discussions (firstname.lastname@example.org):
First, thank you for all that you do. You truly have a thankless role on the MMSD BOE.
I am writing to pass along a few comments on the current board budget deliberations:
a) I urge you to apply reduced spending increases or in some cases reductions, across the budget, rather than attempt to load fees onto a few programs (Keep in mind that Madison’s 308+m budget is much richer than many other like sized communities). This strikes me as the ONLY fair approach.
b) The current process is one of the tail wagging the dog. Why are “cuts” discussed prior to a ground up budget development process? A same service approach does not make sense, given today’s changing times and requirements. A bottom up approach (ie, starting the next budget process now) provides you, the taxpayers, parents and students with an opportunity to be more involved in the process. The ground up process may, in fact suggest spending MORE in some areas, with data to support that approach. That process may also identify revenue opportunities/sources. In addition, it would be interesting to benchmark MMSD’s curriculum, administrative and support service approaches over time vis a vis other districts in terms of spending & results.
c) I urge you to choose a leadership mode rather than the current reactive role. The board seems to focus on hot button issues such as paying for janitors from strings fees, or dramatic increases in wrestling fees, rather than applying the fiscal reality budget wide. You are in an excellent position to discuss and drive funding changes (The Governor’s School Funding Task Force can certainly use some input). Personally, I’d like to see diversified sources of school funding:
1) Local Property Taxes for physical plant only, and capped at annual CPI changes
2) Gas taxes, sales taxes for operating funds (sales taxes should apply to newspapers, media and services)
3) Annual auto fees for operating funds (vehicle fees should be tied to the cost, weight and efficiency of the vehicle)
4) Encourage FICA tax changes at the federal level (eliminate the regressive nature of that tax)
In closing, I urge you to apply reduced spending increases and/or reductions fairly across the budget (x percent across the budget), rather than in narrowly focused areas such as wrestling and strings.
Best wishes –