Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Board Work Session on Budget Planning

The Board held a work session on budget planning on November 2. No supporting documents for the discussion are yet available save the agenda.

Here is the agenda:
Agenda
1. Call to order 4:00p
2. Workshop on budget
3. Adjourn 8:00p
So that's not very telling.

Does anyone who was there have a report?

5 comments:

Dorothy Neville said...

Meg and I were there. I have a lot to say, but it's my husband's birthday and I have a lot to do today first. I will provide more information later when I have time.

Overall, it was a worthwhile meeting to attend. There were lots of handouts and lots of weighty things were discussed. Perhaps some forward motion from at least some of the board?

Also in attendance was K-- a parent who has become active and concerned about the budget (and against the levy). I Don't want to out her unless she wants to be. And a parent involved in the Special Ed PTSA, a friend of Meg who is making concerted effort to understand the budget. And some parents with signs wanting to save elementary school counselors. And Glen Baffia and Jonathan Knapp.

Any of the "vote yes on the levy and then work with the board for change" folks? Not that I could tell, not any faces I recognized. Perhaps if I missed them, they will speak up.

Seattle Parent said...

I just called the Board office. Apparently the link with budget materials from yesterday's meeting will be put on the Budget page (but not there yet). They were not planning to link it to the Board's work session's agenda page on the Board site, but the Board office agreed to ask for a link there also.

Dorothy Neville said...

The detailed agenda shows that the bulk of the meeting consisted of a presentation of WSS, Requested Data Sets (each of the above scheduled for an hour) and shorter presentations on community engagement, the funding gap projections, fund balance reserves and timeline.

The WSS team presented an explanation of the WSS and the proposed modifications to fix some issues and provide a floor for funding. Something that we would not dismantle unless things are truly dire. The important issues addressed include the special ed funding problem, where a student who has special ed services part of the day did not count as a whole child for the classroom headcount, the issue of K8s not getting adequate or equal librarian funding and some other smallish adjustments, all to elementary, middle and K8 schools. About half of the proposals are intertwined and cannot easily be separated for cost. Some others were to protect small schools and give them a chance to grow and succeed (AS1 and Madrona). Overall, it would restore $3.5M to the WSS budget.

Michael DeBell said that in the three years of implementation, $10M has been cut from the WSS. Yes, folks, this isn't discretionary funding like title 1 and LAP and I728 that was cut to fund the strategic plan, but fundamental WSS was cut. To fund the strategic plan. Overall district spending increased during the same time frame that 10 million dollars was cut from basic classroom spending.

Yes, at the same time, overall revenue and budget for the district has gone up every year. See for yourself as fiscal.wa.gov.

The restoration of $3.5M would be good, and in at least one place necessary to avoid potential Special Ed litigation (because how in the world can one have least restrictive environment when that punishes the whole school's funding). One thing I am not clear on is how this allocates PCP teachers.

However, this does not address HS nor does it address CTE (which seems like a big problem). One comment was that HS made out well in the original WSS so they really don't need so much now. (did I get that right?) So no career counselors. Rationale? Well, early intervention is key (said a Pathfinder teacher on the committee). Well, Kay was particularly incensed with that. What about our kids already beyond early intervention. Marni said that regular counselors do double duty (um, that's not really true and regular counselors are already heavily booked). What about our goal of college readiness, what about the proposed core 22? Meg pointed out to me that ten career counselors would be about a million bucks. Really, why not at least consider them as a possible addition to the WSS floor. Or something.

So what's the thinking on firming up a commitment to restore a third of the cuts that the WSS suffered? Michael is all over it, Kay wants it plus more, but the rest? Well, their reaction ranges from wishy washy to downright reluctant. Some board members still feel that committing to an equitable and workable WSS guide is not important. They must feel that they have to hedge their bets that there might be more important spending ideas.

Dorothy Neville said...

Another fascinating aspect of the meeting was the presentation on data sets. The board, with daylighting of issues from Meg Diaz and from pushing, encouraging, whining and complaining from citizens, has been trying to get more transparency in how money is spent. They are asking some fundamental questions about how many people are in central administration, FTEs and costs, how many cuts were really made and where, all sorts of things that show they don't know diddly about what the CA is doing with its money. They cannot assert honestly that they know the CA has become lean and efficient. They do not know and staff is doing its best to keep it that way.

So the board is asking for some hard data. The staff is providing some data, but not clear or complete. To the board's credit, they don't seem to be accepting the incomplete or misleading or vague data as they used to. As you will see if and when the handouts are available on-line, the board wants to know what percent of the FTEs are management. The information shows we are higher than king county average and state average, shows we have been growing faster than either (which have been pretty constant) in the last seven years. The graph shows a decrease in FY10 but not really very much, still higher than FY08 and a projected decrease for FY11. So they admit we are top-heavy. It is muddied however in that it is unclear what job classifications are accounted for. 990 is supposed to be management, but IT people got bumped up to this status to be able to hire competitively in the local market.

The other CA employment sheet looks at changes in FTEs via OSPI duty codes. And while there have been cuts, it sure looks like cuts are heavy in clerical, whereas upper management is growing. But one cannot tell from this how spending has changed, nor why some groups went up instead of down. So when the board asked questions trying to figure out who belonged in what duty code, the staff could not tell. They did say they could forward the OSPI duty code glossary to them. Oh, isn't that nice. I do not think the board was amused.
Why not simply provide a list of who is in what category and how much they cost? Do that for the last few years and we can see trajectories at each employment level.

So, looking at these two reports, it is still not very clear how large CA is, how that has been changing in both FTES and dollars.

Susan said...

I want to clarify what the actual cost of restoring 10 Career and College Specialists to the budget would be. Career Specialist are classified employees and make at the top of the pay scale approximately $38,500. per year. With benefits the actual budget cost is approx. $54,000. per year. We provide direct service to students, staff,parents and the community for a very reasonable cost.