School Budgets

There have been requests to talk about school budgets. I am not an expert in this area so if you have info, please let us know. To repeat from my post on the Audit and Finance Committee, here are dates discussed:

There was discussion over the timeline for the budget process. There will be discussion about it at the Board retreat this Saturday. Apparently the Board is working on "guiding principles" for the budget for staff to work with. But it seems that they need to add yet another Work Session to get it all done. This will be on April 8th. So hear this: SPEAK UP NOW. Tell the Board what matters to you and your school.

Michael was trying to get a kind of drop-dead date to restore money to school budgets but staff really circled around it. One issue is that the legislature did not finish today and so will go into Special Session starting on Monday. (They did some education bills passed but obviously, not the final state budget which includes education funding.)

Don Kennedy said May 15th is the date for notification of certificated staff and April 20th is the date for classified staff. Michael again asked for a date, saying could you adjust school budgets after April 16th? Don said yes unless they change the timeline. He said that HR processing is the key and the pressure point (it seems letters go out about a week to 10 days before notification). Michael again stated that he wanted to be sure to restore funding to schools if the legislature comes through (they are hoping for the House's budget bill, not the Senate's).

Additionally, it seems there are to be, according to the Times, $8M in cuts at the school level to add to the $8M at the administration level. This came after budgets had been worked on by school budget teams.

  • what are the due dates for school budgets? Ask your principal.
  • the RIFing dates are indicated above from the A&F Committee meeting but what about re-hire letters?
  • does this budget match up with what the NSAP will do?
What else?


Sue said…
I think the dates for school budgets are March 22? 25?

Way before the April date the board is talking about, anyhow.
Chris S. said…
I can answer part of that. The drop dead date for certificated staff was Mar 15, two days ago. This means if you couldn't pay for your counselor thru parent funds or some shifting of buckets, your principal had to "displace" your counselor two days ago. If money gets added back to the budget now or anytime in the future, you can have "a counselor" but probably not the same one you had before.

I assume the same applies for classified staff and the April 20 date. If you want to keep the particular people you have now, you need to be able to guarantee, by that date, that you will be able to pay their salaries.

I don't know what MDB means about "final" budget dates. I got a little testy with Peter M. Saturday when he was saying the budget wasn't final and I was saying, then why did we have to "displace" someone yesterday? I'm a long way from where the rubber meets the road. The directors seem to be in another galaxy.
seattle citizen said…
Hmmm...looking at the CBA, can't yet find dates for notification of either a) displacement (building budget too small for current staff, less senior teachers are let go but still on contract) or b) Reduction in Force (overall district employee count must be reduced, so "mass layoff" occurs)
These are too different things.
Right now schools are dealing with the first case: Teachers are being displaced because of building budgets. Later schools might face RIF, as district itself seeks to reduce spending even more by laying off people generally. In displacement, displaced teachers start looking for open positions, and will, if they haven't found an open position (for which they get an automatic interview) be just placed by the district at some point.
Riffing actually lays people off, out of the system entirely, and that is when actual "bumping" begins, as teachers with seniority "bump" those with less, all around the district.

But back to the point, I don't see the DATES in the CBA before which these two things occur. This is important, because teachers who are riffed need to be able to look elsewhere.
seattle citizen said…
Here's an interesting piece from the contract:
" In such cases where large-scale layoffs are necessary, the SPS shall minimize the number of employees to be laid off by reducing cash reserves in a prudent manner to replace depleted revenues and by reducing expenditures in a prudent manner in areas of capital outlay, travel, contractual services, books and supplies...[district shall] give priority to those programs and services which relate to instruction and welfare of the students."
So can someone tell me if the district is following the contract with staff by buying new books for alignment and entering into new contracts, and embarking on new and costly initiatives? We've known about the "budget shortfall" for years.
Maureen said…
I just heard something, but haven't been able to confirm it yet. Have any of you heard that any parent (PTSA/fundraising) money used to supplement the building budget will be subject to a 3.3% handling fee of sorts. So, for instance, if your PTSA agrees to fund an art teacher for $20,000, they will have to write a check to the District for $20,660 to cover it.

If true, that seems like it's adding insult to injury.
Maureen, I'm checking into that but I didn't want to say anything until I absolutely knew it for sure.
kellie said…
Yes, Maureen, the district is going to charge that 3.3% handling and accounting fee. I agree that it seems to add insult to injury but there you go.
Maureen said…
kellie, do you know if it applies to any subsidy, or just those related to staffing?
What I understood is that the fee comes in if the district doesn't have the money upfront from the school/PTA.. Meaning, that many PTAs continue fundraising AFTER the budget date so the "fee" is because all the money isn't in hand by the budget date. I filed for Public Disclosure on this fee, policy,etc.

I find this just wrong and really, the entire PTA system should say so. I don't know what the fee money will be used for - to fund stuff if the PTAs don't come through?
Lori said…
Is that surcharge going to be used to help schools with less active PTAs retain specialists or have additional funds to spend how the choose?

I'd heard something recently about interest in "spreading around" PTSA monies a bit, and maybe this is what was meant. I wasn't going to even bring it up here, but now my curiosity is piqued.
whittier07 said…
I know I shouldn't be shocked by this "fee" ... really nothing the school district does SHOULD shock me by now. It's just ironic that our PTA is voting TONIGHT on whether to supplement the school budget to add to the librarian's hours. Does this mean that we have to have the money by March 22nd when our final school budget is submitted?
Maureen said…
I thought we always had to hand in a check to cover our subsidy in March. I didn't know it was possible to pay later. If Melissa is right, this could push more schools into fundraising earlier.

Lori, I doubt very much this is to be spread around--3.3% is just not much money--and how would they decide where to spend it?

This fee is consistent with charging $207 a month for full day K--not a flat $200. Does anyone know if you get a 'discount' if you pay it all up front?

This sort of (petty grasping) thing just makes me want to pick up my marbles and go home.
Anonymous said…
Here is our school's story:

For approximately the past 3 years, ptsa has provided a promissory letter stating it will bridge budgetary gaps UP TO a particular $$$. The district keeps the letter on file & when the school budget runs out, the district then bills our ptsa who promptly pays.

IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY, WHY NOT PAY IN ADVANCE??? our experience has been that numbers CONSTANTLY change. Of the (approx) 3 years that ptsa has provided this letter, 2009-10 is the first year that ptsa has actually paid out. PTSA chose to be billed the amount because, from above, numbers constantly change, and when asked if ptsa would receive a refund of unspent money, it was not clear the money would be refunded. PTSA chose to protect it's money.

SO NOW that generous parents and hardworking fundraising volunteers have been successful and are able to provide large sums of money to schools to 'bridge budgetary gap', we are now being told we will ALSO pay an administration fee for providing these funds. hmmmmm ~ does something not sound right to anyone else??!!!!

Of course, additionally, i was told that the ptsa could chose to, or not to, pay the fee - if ptsa chose not to, it would come out of the school budget, which is already short. So, call me dumb, but wouldn't you say that ptsa actually then is paying this fee?!!

I am SOOOOO livid - and usually just read comments, not write them, but this has my blood boiling.
Dorothy Neville said…
At last night's PTSA meeting, the principal of Roosevelt explained how they are implementing the 10% choice seats.

Naively, one might think that since RHS was built for 1600 kids, 400 per year, 10% would mean 40 open choice seats per year. Nope.

The demographers have calculated that there are about 360 rising 8th graders in the RHS attendance area (not including APP kids who are expected to go to Garfield). They estimate that about 10 each will choose Nova and Center school (none to STEM). So that leaves about 340 students living in the attendance area to comprise next year's freshmen class.

OK so far? Well, the idea is that ten percent of those kids will opt to try for a different comprehensive high school. Therefore, 33 (not 34 -- who knows why) seats are available for open choice.

So they have to budget based on getting 340 9th graders. This moves them down a notch in the weighted staffing formula, so they will be at the very high end of the lower tier of funding. If more than 307 of the expected attendance area kids come, they still have the 33 open choice seats. That's the hope at least, to get closer to 400 incoming 9th graders and keep their higher WSS tier. However, what if the demographers are really wrong and a much higher number of attendance area kids enroll? I asked, what if some huge number of attendance area kids enroll, would you still accept 33 open choice kids? Brian didn't know. I suspect the district simply hasn't decided that, thinking it too unlikely a scenario to worry about. (However, with the baby boom rising up, won't that happen for sure in just a few years?)

The bottom line though is, they are artificially capping enrollment at less than the functional capacity of the building.
"They estimate that about 10 each will choose Nova and Center school (none to STEM)."

This is weird because the Enrollment office made the high school SAP around STEM drawing off kids including some from Roosevelt. (I don't have the numbers in front of me.)

My thought was that this was crazy because if you DON'T draw off the numbers to STEM that they say, then those assignment area kids may stay at their assigned school and thus cut the number of choice seats.

What is going on? I'll call Tracy Libros.
Dorothy Neville said…
Melissa, I suspect that STEM is supposed to take kids from RHS area eventually. Just not necessarily this coming year. But when the bubble rises to 9th grade, they sure hope STEM is popular.

Actually, if they predicted some would go to STEM this Fall, things would look worse for RHS, because it would reduce the number of kids expected, which would also reduce the number of seats they allow for option seats. At this point, having kids from RHS area choose STEM will simply result in empty seats at RHS, seats they will not be allowed to fill with a waiting list or anything. At least that's they way I understood Brian to explain it. Confirmation from enrollment would be nice.

This way of doling out 10% option seats explains to me an issue I read here about West Seattle High. Someone commented in this blog that they were capping enrollment below functional capacity (at least I think that's what I read) and that is part of the uneven numbers between Sealth and West Seattle. Brian Vance's explanation of RHS made that more clear. I can now understand how West Seattle could be getting artificially capped.
Maureen said…
Doesn't it seem odd that the larger the number of seats they HAVE to hold for neighborhood kids, the larger the number they have to hold for outside kids as well? It seems to me that they should base the 10% on the functional capacity of the school, so it is a given and then they just have to deal with the variablilty in the neghborhood population from year to year. This method compounds the problem of both over and under enrollment.

Unless, since the 10% is based on a fictional estimate of neighborhood seats(it only accounts for rising public school students, right? So no effort was made to estimate how many kids will come from private), they just make up a low neighborhood number when they expect it to be high and a high number when they expect it to be low?

Isn't it interesting how many schools have estimated enrollments that just magically happen to put them in a lower WSS category this year than last?
And Maureen, that is why I don't trust the Facilities department. The functional capacity numbers change all the time when the programs don't and it is just ridiculous.
zb said…
Boy, there are a lot of wonky parents pretty intimately involved in understanding their school budgets.

I stumbled on this Seattle PI data base:

Containing data on spending (in the 2007-2008 year, so it's old data).

It might of use to some.

Has anyone found the data (or more current numbers) at the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruciton site? Seems like availability of the data should make us more educated on these budget issues.
Maureen said…
Here's a cut and paste from an email from Kevin Corrigan at SPS regarding the 3.3% handling fee. It was forwarded to me from another parent. I don't think I'm stepping on any toes by posting it here as the info should be public knowledge:

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you, but I’m now following up on the indirect cost concerns you asked about. I have heard similar inquiries from other principals and parents. I hope the following explanation helps some but in the mean time your budget analyst should be able to provide guidance in options open to you and your school.

The collection of indirect costs is the accepted method of covering the added cost of doing business brought about as a result of receiving the grant funding. Indirect costs may include the cost center functions of finance and accounting, information technology, administration, and personnel. Indirect costs have been traditionally charged on all grants except the PTA/PTSA grants. Current economic environment make this difficult to maintain.

In the past, the cost of administering these grants in all departments (grants, budget, payroll, accounting, HR, etc.) has been covered by the district. Last week nearly 90 central office staff were notified that their positions were ending. These cuts significantly hit the departments just listed. Without the change to capturing grant indirect costs from all grants, including those from PTAs, another $200,000 in cuts would be needed from either central or schools. Additional central cuts would be devastating in terms of service to schools and additional school cuts would be a last resort.

With all that is going on at the moment I appreciate your patience in this matter. I will advise any developments as I receive them. Thanks.

-Kevin Corrigan
Thanks Maureen. I have a public disclosure request in on this as well.

Is the PTA money really, legally, a grant? Did the school or the district apply for it? Not to split hairs but maybe that's not the case.
Also, when were we, as parents, going to hear about this?
whittier07 said…
Parents and PRINCIPALS ... a couple of parents had read about the fee here and brought it up at our PTA meeting last night. Our principal hasn't been notified about it and she has met with the district budget analyst who can see that the PTA is supplementing the school's budget. Are they going to try to collect after the fact? Knowing this district - YOU BET!
wsnorth said…
When is 10% not really 10%?

It looks like the district is restricting "choice" seats at all the popular high schools to 7 or 8%. Roosevelt, Garfield and Ballard, for example, have all recently had classes of approx. 400, which would yield 40 choice seats, not 30 to 32. Hopefully there will be "surge" capacity to get these back up to 400.
Dorothy Neville said…
WSNORTH, thanks for the link. Yes, I explained above the rationale I was told for the 33 choice seats at Roosevelt. It certainly seems a non-intuitive way of providing 10% option seats.

How weird that it can rise or fall based on how many attendance area students attend. And the comment that they will monitor it in the Fall? Does this mean that they'll move kids from a weight list in the Fall? Or does this mean that they will shrink the number of option seats as late as the Fall?

Mr Vance had no idea how many siblings would be applying. No idea.

So if STEM is actually popular this year and 30 kids in the RHS area elect to attend, well, then that means the projected size of the 9th grade class shrinks by 30 kids so the number of option seats goes down as well.
wsnorth said…
It seems to me if the "popular" high schools (I would call them high quality schools, but I'm sure that would get me in some sort of trouble) have true extra capacity, why not give as many students as possible the chance to attend? It just seems warped, mean spirited, even foolish to restrict students from the opportunity to attend the "best" schools, or at least the schools of their choice, when there IS room!!

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