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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Comments on Monday's Budget Discussion

Let me first let you see what board policy says:

  • Policy DB - Annual Budget; "The budgets provide the framework for both expenditures and revenues for the year. They translate into financial terms the educational programs and priorities for the system."; "Planning involves long-term thought, study, and deliberation" and; "The superintendent will have overall responsibility for budget preparation"
  • Policy DFAC - Fund Balance; "Protect the educational program in the face of unexpected interruptions in the flow of revenue" and "The annual general fund budget for the school district shall include an undesignated fund balance projected to be equal to at least 12% of the total expenditures included in that budget"
  • Policy GCQA-GCQB - Professional Staff Reduction in Force; "the board is responsible for maintaining good public elementary and secondary schools. The board is also responsible for implementing the educational interests of the state. The board's primary consideration is the maintenance of a sound and balanced educational program that is consistent with the functions and responsibilities of the school district."
The superintendent presented a plan to have a balanced budget. Exactly what our policy requires. No one on the board particularly liked it - and all had something different they didn't like the most. This makes for a very difficult and painful process. It was not pleasant at the meeting and I'm sure the replay (on the Comporium Cable TV education channel) would be just as painful.

After a lot of point/counter point discussion, the superintendent volunteered to come back to the board with changes to the plan which would incorporate taking money from the fund balance to cover areas the administration would like to protect.

My concern is I'm afraid we are trying to manage the budget instead of managing the district. Does the district's priority stand out in the budget per our policy. I was told last night by a board member that it does, 86% of the budget is for salaries and our business is people.

Is that really the priority of the district?

We were told "The Rock Hill Climb" and  the "Professional Code" would drive budget decisions. The code says, "Put Students First" and The Climb says, "providing all students with work that authentically engages them in the learning process". 

Will the board have that discussion? Can anyone look at the budget and tell what the priorities are? If not, can the administration present the budget in a way that it does? Are we dropping programs we'll regret later? Are we missing waste and inefficiency that should be cut instead? I promise you in a $122 million budget, there is some of both.

Anyway, as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over till it's over", and that will be the end of June.

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