The budget shortfall (gap) is $36.6M.
Staff is recommending increasing the non-grant Strategic Plan spending by $321,476 but say that the impact to the gap is a decrease of $254,546 "due to things already assumed in the gap e.g. Special Ed. This is one statement that I have a hard time believing and even if it is so, that leaves $67k to increase the gap. The gap should not be increased at all for any reason. If we have no money, there is no money to expand.
It looks from the district's own timeline document that they are somewhat behind in the process.
- The Central Budget submittals were due between 1/18-1/28. I believe Don Kennedy, COO, said that staff was working over the weekend to have the final submittals to the Board this week.
- As noted elsewhere, Work Session on the Budget, Feb. 9th
- Individual School Budget Development is scheduled from Feb. 18th to March 14th.
- State Economist updated revenue forecast - March 17th
- "Budget & Staffing Loading & Analysis for Possible RIF" is from March to May.
- Budget Adjustments Based on Legislative Actions - April
Recommended Budget Timeline After March
- Prep - April to May
- Intro of budget - June 15th
- Public Hearing on Budget - June 16th
- Board Action on Recommended Budget - July 6th
I have heard a couple of Board members say something that struck me (and is at the heart of governance): they said that the budget wasn't their decision. Now this strikes me as odd because in Board policy B61.00, it states that the Superintendent and staff "Prepare and submit the annual budget" and that the Board "Approve the annual budget".
I do not read that as "the budget isn't my decision". I read that as a joint proposition of collaboration, compromise and consensus. So as long as the budget balances, they have to approve it? The Board could not say to the Superintendent and staff, "This is not what we have found consensus on and will not approve it?" Maybe not.
I also wanted to check out what the Superintendent policies had to say and guess what? That link isn't working and hasn't been even before the new website got underway. I did see this under the Board's Fiscal Management area of Policies and Procedures about budgeting:
G 01.00 Be aligned with the multi-year fiscal plan and the strategic plan
I didn't know that in 2009 that the Strategic Plan had been codified into Board policies. That certainly does give the Superintendent more leverage.
Moving on to budget document, Budget Discussion and Initial Recommendations, we see
- the first one should be no surprise - "Our reductions must allow the strategic foundation that has been built to stay in place (i.e. VAX, Performance Management, ADW, and assessment system)." This is a HUGE amount of money in the budget. I can only say the majority of this money is not going in the classroom.
- second - "The impact of the cuts in Olympia will be felt at every level of the school district." And they are right but they didn't exactly add "we will be looking to keep the majority of cuts away from classrooms".
- third - "We will be acting in face of uncertainty about the total size of cuts necessary" -
- fourth - "We do not have complete flexibility in how we can apply the money we have." Here they don't say grants but I believe that is what they are referencing.
- last - "We are committed to supporting employees impacted by job losses." Pretty talk but really, what does that mean?
- in yet another document they ask the Board to consider, "Did work exist before the Strategic Plan?" which is important because there are a couple of things that did exist before the SP.
- The big one is the work for the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC - the 6-12 school for recent immigrant students). Promises have been made and broken to the community for a long time (probably at least a decade). Their capital funds, voted on by taxpayers in BEX II, got reduced from $14M to $10M. I have never seen any other BEX project stalled out or its money reduced other than SBOC. The head of the Bilingual Student Services, Veronica Gallardo, was quite clear in how hard it would be to build the trust of this community if the district goes back yet again on its promises to them. Anyone who believes that the district has made a promise to them and wants it fulfilled with this budget should get in line behind SBOC.
Expenditure by State Activity:
- Seattle Central Adm 8.9% (with coach adjustment), 7.4% ; every other district under 6% except Tacoma at 6.3%
- Seattle "other support" - about the same
- Teaching - Seattle, lowest in the region with 58.4%; Bellevue at 66.85%
- Teaching Support - Seattle, 9.1%; Tacoma the highest at 10.4% and Kent the lowest at 7.9%
- Unit Administration (principals, etc.) - Seattle at 5.7% with Bellevue at the lowest of 5.3% and Kent at the highest with 6.8%
In Key Staffing areas, Seattle is, across the board, higher than all the other Puget Sound districts surveyed.
- HR - Seattle, 39.1%; Bellevue, 11.5%
- Budget - Seattle, 8%; Bellevue, 3%
- Payroll - Seattle, 10%; Tacoma and Kent, 5.5%
- Procurement - Seattle, 5.3%; Kent at 7%
Keep in mind that Seattle is, of course, the largest school district in the state. However, the State Auditor even says that SPS's Central operates much larger than it should. Also, the expansion of the central administration has been in large part because of renaming of positions and grant-funded positions. However, it leaves open the issue of what happens when the grants run out? In the case, for example, of the Broad Residents, we took them on under the General Fund. I suspect this would be the case in most of the other ones (like the new HR hire under the TIF grant).
Board of Directors
As I mentioned previously, I queried all the Directors about if they had made any personal decisions or any informal Board decisions. I asked this because of discussions during the Work Sessions that seemed to indicate how some Board members were leaning.
Martin-Morris - From his pov, nothing is off the table but he stated "I am reluctant to cut in the areas of SPED and Early Learning." He also stated that community can always communicate with the Board up until the amendments are due.
Maier - Peter sent a long e-mail but basically said it is too early in the process to have any single budget item in mind.
DeBell - Said "it is a negotiated and iterative process" and want to work towards compromise. He also said, "I am waiting to see the full array of cuts available-Central based, Strategic Plan, negotiated with SEA or other labor partners, and WSS and judge their probable impacts before voicing my final opinion about how much we can commit to school budgets which are my highest priority."
Carr - "It is important to be clear for the sake of understanding the process that the Board role here isn't a decision making role. We are offering our guidance and giving staff a sense of where we are as they progress with the staff work on the budget." She stated nothing was off the table except the red items on the Budget Tool document as they have too long a timeline to get thru before the budget is due. School athletics are in the red zone but she did say the gap still isn't closed and they may have to reconsider them.
Sundquist - nothing is off the table. He is trying to ensure that most of the cuts occur in the central office and shared services areas. He supports reducing the Strategic Plan. He hopes to restore some of the SBOC funding and Early Learning initiatives as well as figuring out the implementation challenges of the Special Education ICS.
So, with all this in mind, the next part of this Budget thread will be what I would suggest.