As the Madison School Board ends the 2003-04 school year, the Finance & Operations Committee is beginning to develope the budget for 2005-06. Committee Chair Carol Carstensen asked for Board suggestions. This memo gives my suggestions.
You can participate by sending your suggestions to the entire Board at email@example.com
To: Carol Carstensen, Chair of Finance & Operations Committee
From: Ruth Robarts, Member of Committee
Date: June 23, 2004
RE: Suggestions for process to develop budget for 2005-06
Thanks for asking for written suggestions for the budget process for next year. First, I?d like to offer some comments on budget development from the National School Boards Association.
The budget is the official plan for spending public funds for the school district. This refers to the so-called final budget, as formally adopted by vote of the board after amendments have been made to the proposed or first draft budget initially submitted to the board by the superintendent, based on requests from staff, filtered through decisions by principals and district administrators.
This is also a critical board function. Board members have to fully participate in developing the final budget to ensure that the spending priorities in it are well aligned with the school system?s vision, mission, values and goal statements. For every expenditure, the board should ask:
? Which of the district?s goals is this money intended to advance?
? What are the possible alternative expenditures for advancing district schools toward that goal?
? How is this particular expenditure better than the other options?
According to the NSBA, ?the board must invest enough time in the budget development process to have a clear understanding of what?s in the budget, what?s not and why? [and] how each item included in the budget aligns with the district?s visions and goals?.
The NSBA model focuses on the Board?s role in aligning all resources to support student achievement.
Administration uses specific, measurable goals to review student achievement in prior year according to district?s ?Strategic Priorities?. For example, it reviews reading, math, social studies, science curriculum for all student groups as well as other academic programs aligned to district standards. Administration should ensure that suggestions for program change come from the staff level that will implement the changes. Board committees monitor the review throughout the year.
Administration reviews facility, maintenance and non-instructional departments for prior year seeking efficiencies. Board committees monitor the review throughout the year.
Administration recommends curriculum & program changes to improve student achievement. Appropriate committees review recommendations before sending them to full Board.
Administration recommends budget for the next year allocating resources based on its analysis (connection between curriculum and programs and desired student achievement).
Where the recommended budget exceeds revenue forecast for coming year, Administration presents funding alternatives including private partnerships or changes in fees.
Administration recommends modifications and cuts necessary to balance budget for coming year.
Board reviews recommendations for modifications and cuts, adopting or revising administrative recommendations.
Board approves budget for coming year.
Second, I?d like to suggest specific features within this model for our 2005-06 budget process.
The Board should require the administration to do the following.
1. Use a budget format that provides information essential for readers to see changes from year to year in number of FTEs (full-time employees) and other key categories of expenditures. For a model see the City of Madison?s web pages at http://www.ci.madison.wi.us/comp/2004opbud/2004opbud.htm.
2. Use a budget format that provides reasons for additions and cuts, answering the questions above about why the recommended expenditure is the better alternative and why items are in as well as out. Also see City of Madison web pages.
3. Require all department heads to solicit suggestions for program improvement from the staff responsible for implementing the programs and provide summaries of the suggestions to the Board.
4. Balance the operating budget by ?holding harmless? the following departments, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Educational Services and Students Services.
5. Require heads of all other departments to reduce budgets by a specific percentage, one that balances the budget without further cuts to those departments held harmless.
6. Provide a separate process for approval of expenditures under Fund 80, so that the Board can prioritize Fund 80 expenditures and consider the impact of increases in Fund 80 spending on the tax levy in view of potential referendums.
7. Approve the Fund 80 budget separately.
In turn, the Board should do the following:
1. Set a schedule for BOE committees so that each committee reviews suggestions for cuts from appropriate departments (staff and administration), holds public hearings on its recommendations and makes budget recommendations to the Finance & Operations Committee. For example, the calendar would require Performance & Achievement to review suggestions for cuts and departmental recommendations, make its own recommendations, and hold hearings on the recommendations before they go to the Finance & Operations Committee.
2. Require Human Resources Committee to seek a legal opinion about a reduction-in-force policy for administrators and develop a RIF policy for review by the Finance & Operations Committee.