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Friday, January 14, 2011

Budget Work Session (Continued)

UPDATE: Here is the Powerpoint link.

Item 8:
There was some confusion/frustration over an item on page 12 (Strategic Plans: Moving Forward) about the item "School Performance Framework (to include MTSS). Thanks to Kay who said, "What is MTSS?" Turns out that RTI is now MTSS (multi-tiered system of support; a response to intervention) Susan Enfield talked about using what they have learned works and taking it out to other schools. This generated a lot of discussion.


The item has its original cost at $8.7M and its proposed cost at $0-3.1M. The focus here has been on Level 1 and 2 schools and the interventions scale-up for all schools. Duggan said that of the $5.2 current budget for 37 schools, they have revenue for $2.1M so they need $3.1M to keep up.


But Sherry could not follow the bouncing dollar signs (I couldn't either). Duggan said the $8.7M is in the gap. MGJ said that in a Dece. 15th conversation (I believe it was another Work Session) and the next step would be to scale up to all schools and that is $8.7M and that they want to maintain the Level 1 and 2 schools.


Michael jumped in and he was not happy. He said that first, he is having the same problem as last year's budget. "You give us what is moving and not fully in context and we get confusion." He said that the A&F Committee had asked for data and total costs and they still don't have it. He said, "I'm pretty disappointed." He said they just don't get far in these discussions because "we don't know what things cost in total and what flexibility there is." He looked at Duggan, "Is that pretty clear?" Yes, was the answer. " Do you remember that request?" Duggan said he believed it was costed out in the December 15 Work Session. Michael replied that it was little pieces here and there and I don't see ALL of the Strategic Plan up here.


Pretty dramatic.


Sherry echoed his comments. She asked about MAP; are we spending zero or how much are we spending? "I look for the same kind of clear and specific information." She said she understood that some of this is grant money and not the General Fund but the General Fund piece is important to have.


Don Kennedy said something that I found funny: looking at the chart he said, "I think we could do that with just another column (on the page) for total costs. This is for items on the gap, not the total picture."


Hilarious. All will be revealed with one more column on the page. And this budget session was NOT just about the gap. Their own Powerpoint says that. My notes reflect what I was thinking:


Staff can't dictate what information the Board needs to make its decisions.


Michael said that at the retreat he had said, in his opinion, "that we cannot afford all of the ambitious components of our Strategic Plan and it hasn't yielded benefits we had hoped and we need to triage. Suspended, slow down and the greatest value items continue funding in full. This is the challenge in front of us. I need ALL costs and components of SP and not little pieces."


Peter said he agreed and while the school performance framework is a powerful tool, how do we fund it? He said he goes back to the go back to text materials adoptions because of levy passage. There is 5.9M for adoptions, staff should look at spreading it out, prioritize which would have advantage of spreading out the money in thirds and free up levy dollars for coming year for other items. He said look at that because adoptions have impact on central and schools and we are putting reductions on teachers and schools. He said they should consider ways to use open-source or virtual books.


Kay referenced money for technology in the Strategic Plan and maybe that could be funded through BTA and use General Fund money for other things. (This is probably true but I'm not sure.) She referenced Kindles. She also asked if they focused just on the 22 Level 1 and 2 schools, they could probably fund those with just $3.1M. Susan Enfield said that is accurate but that they needed to reward the high performing schools as well as the help struggling schools. She pointed out that they have struggling students in every school and need the interventions and training across all schools.


I'm not totally following this line of questioning. As you can see it kind of went in a circle and here's a big pushback from staff. If I were on the Board, I'd want very specific information about which schools, what they are receiving, feedback from school staff and progress reports. If staff can't tell the Board how this is working, I don't think they have the right to keep asking for the money.


Steve pointed out that there seemed to be substantial Board interest for savings on textual materials. Harium pushed back saying that we told the public when we passed the levy that the dollars were going for textbooks. He said he didn't see the benefit of waiting.


So here's my question to you; Peter says to only use a third of the funding for textual materials (and remember, it is NOT all for books) now. Meaning, we use the rest of the money as a cushion for this budget with the promise to replace the money and use it for textual materials in the following years. Harium thinks this won't really help as we are kicking the can down the road but will still have to buy those items. Is it worth it to do this to close the gap?


Betty pointed out the item on "College and Career ready." She asked what it was (classic Betty). It funds three things; a staff position, curriculum alignment (grant) and Ap/IB expansion (federal grant). The position is a .6 FTE. Betty said, "One person? This is readiness?" She also asked about the internal auditor.


Sherry said the job description for the internal auditor is in the A&F Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday.. She basically said that we need the internal auditors to get ahead of any issues and that would likely wouldn't have as many findings from the SAO if we did. She said the Port has about 8 and is roughly the same size organization as SPS. She said SPS should have at least 3.


Sherry also said that she needs to see the Strategic Plan numbers clearly so that they know what staff is proposing and what the difference is in the money. She was clear that this was her expectation.


What is kind of unbelievable is that on page 13 of the Powerpoint, there's a listing of items with a total of how much they add to the gap! (It is about $3.6M.) How can staff really expect the Board to say okay to that?


Sherry again complained that she didn't see everything (she referenced HR for some reason). Michael said that everything in the budget adds to the gap and every dollar not spent decreases it so, for him, it was about understanding what is funded by what money (grants, etc.) Kay asked for a more detailed analysis of the costs of giving MAP at the school level (subs, closing the library, principal time - this was because Dorothy N. slipped her a note pointing this out). MGJ pushed back saying it would be a detailed analysis to have to make.


For crying out loud, you call the principals (most of whom don't love MAP and would probably be glad to see it go to twice a year) and say, give us a rough figure of the costs for giving MAP at your school. The principals know how much time they take, the cost of subs/proctors, etc. It doesn't have to be to the penny but saying it's too much work is weak.


So then they got to the recommendations which come in what they called a "tiered approach."

  • Staff recommendations,
  • under consideration (staff needs to do more work) and
  • potential (more analysis or last resort).
This starts on page 16.


Staff Recommendations - saving about $10.6-14.5M

It's a variety of items like

  • using the unreserved fund balance (which Duggan said the Board already passed),
  • use of pension/cola, transfer from Capital- technology (ah, there's moving that money around again),
  • transportation route changes,
  • increase use of reserves to 3%,
  • no backfill for loss of National Board certification,
  • maximize Title 1 carry-forward (Meg, help us out - what would this mean?), and
  • reduce Special Ed ARRA expenditures (Sped Ed parents, help me out here).

Michael said the page said "Operations" and yet he saw a big variety in the listings, some of which are NOT Operations. He said he was trying to follow the functional categories of the district's budget.


Steve opined that using more reserves would be the last of all decisions (so he would move it to the last category and not the first).


So they moved on to the Initial recommendations (also Operations), saving about $2.8-9.75M:

  • shift BTA II Interest to General Fund (is this legal, maybe so),
  • sell KNHC,
  • signage revenue,
  • eliminate district calendar and
  • charge full or partial costs to childcare organizations.

At first I was thinking, what is this acronym KNHC and then I realized they were talking about Hale's radio station. No and hell no. This seems to be the answer from the Board simply because (1) this is old territory (but I don't fault staff for putting it out there again), (2) it could NEVER be replaced if you sell the FM place on the dial, (3) they just spent a lot of district money in remodeling it plus raising private funds for all new equipment (4) historically a gem and one of the first radio stations in the country to stream on the web and (5) this is just me but one of the first radio stations to play Lady Gaga.


Signage - this one was funny because I was thinking the basketball courts or football fields. No, Duggan researched it and it was things like shrink-wrapping the lockers, ads on the cafeteria tables, in the school buses, on the district website. I'm good with the website for sure but too much in the school feels like we sold our soul. This would be hard to do quickly because it would involved changing policy and then the work of finding sponsors, contracts, etc.


District calendar - we'd save $30K not to print and distribute them. The district has to make a calendar anyway and it's a public service. I was talking with some other people and Helen S. suggested getting a sponsor(s) and put ads there. Problem solved.


Partial/full rent for childcare spaces - this got the most play. Betty was very surprised that we didn't charge and said it was "dumb." That got a laugh. Sherry pointed out that not charging for the child care space could be considered gifting of public resources.


There was then the age-old discussion of Central Office reductions (page 18). Their recommendation which is initial (not the first tier, mind you) is 60 FTEs for about $4M with some mid-year reductions of between $.5-.7M for a total savings of $4.5M-4.7M. And yes, they did say they cut 85 positions last year. Why the Board puts up with this number is hard to fathom.


(And FYI, here's what the district said in their FAQs about the supplemental levy: Central Administration at SPS is 6.25% for 2010-2011, compared with 8% for districts across the state in 2008-2009 (we have not yet analysed the 2010-2011 numbers). So below, see Kay's remarks about what is happening nationally.)


Peter said it was promising but he wants these away from the classroom.


There was some tense discussion over the terms. Michael was not happy over the inter-use of "central administration" and "central office" which are different things to the district and OSPI. Don seemed concerned that they could not get this all done by the next Work Session on the budget on the 26th.


The next page (19) are the initial cuts to Teaching and Learning which total about $8.3-10M. Note; this is double what central cuts are and this was not lost on the Directors. It includes:

  • eliminating the dual principal at RBHS
  • eliminate summer school (non-grant funds only)
  • no backfill of Highly Capable funding from state cuts
  • reduce WSS by K-4 revenue loss
  • eliminate one full day kindergarten in WSS
  • evening school elimination

MGJ pointed out the obvious, "You want the central number to be bigger but the other piece is you don't want a reduction in WSS at the school level."


Michael got a little angry here and said that his reaction is that the central cuts are too low. He said, "If this is the sum total of employment reduction, it is far short." Sherry asked if he had a number in mind and he said :$12-15M."


Don Kennedy said the district would be totally different with that kind of reduction in staff at Central and it would be a shift in thinking about their work.


Sherry pointed out that they needed to be "crisp on categorization" so there aren't miscommunications in what they are talking about at any given time. She said she couldn't map these recs to OSPI categories.


Then MGJ said something that I found off-putting, given who she was speaking to. She said that they hadn't used OSPI categories as it was just a Powerpoint but "we can correct it." What? This is a presentation to the the Seattle School Board who will have to approve deep and severe cuts and you didn't think it important to use the most precise data and labeling?


Kay dovetailed off Michael and said that she had looked and the national average for central office for districts is 4% (stating she knew it wasn't apples to apples). She said we were about 6 1/2%.


Steve said he wanted the minimum cuts in schools and the maximum in central and to ramp down the pace and direction of the Strategic Plan.


So this was after 4 hours and I left. I'll try to find the videotape and watch the rest.


So the total of the Initial Recs is between $26 and $39M dollars (which would just about cover everything on the high end).


The final items under consideration but last resort were things like reduce custodial support, charge one day of TRI to Capital (again, is this legal?), program eliminations (no specifics), eliminate athletics, transportation route changes. This totaled between $5-10M.


Analysis to follow but clearly, this is go-time for the Board. If Central has to cut and be organized, then maybe that is what has to happen. But to not use specific terms, give clear and overarching data and try to give the Board recommendations that protect Central more than the WSS should be a clear signal that staff has different priorities than the Board. Staff could have helped themselves and yet, for whatever reason, did not. It is a stubborness that is difficult to understand.




22 comments:

Anonymous said...

•reduce Special Ed ARRA expenditures"

...hoping somebody can offer a lucid explanation here? ARRA is the funding that implements IDEA to help meet the unique needs of children with disabilities. Again, where is the vision and leadership here? When a whole class of children in a school district cannot meet any state standards even though they are cognitively able to do so, the Board should be having no trouble at all figuring out its priorities.

Parent

Dorothy Neville said...

I thought that the ARRA money was stimulus money and is gone, thus the reduction (not that I support reducing special ed.)

Ah, that last thing about closing programs? Well, the person who took my copy of the power point (he said he would give it back) was someone from South Lake. He came a little late, asked me if South Lake had been discussed yet, borrowed my powerpoint to show to his boss across the room, stuck around for a long time and then left (without returning my powerpoint copy). I left at 8:30 before the meeting wrapped up so I have no idea if that slide ever got addressed.

Charlie Mas said...

The staff intentionally mis-labels things, swaps around names and jargon, and confuses meanings specifically to obscure understanding of their actions.

Greg said...

Charlie is right, I think the staff doesn't want the Board to question their decisions and they see the Board presentations as a hoop to jump through rather than an opportunity to find improvements, so they do confusing and long presentations with the intent of running out the clock. And as long as the Board lets the staff get away with doing this, it will continue.

Anonymous said...

How much of the Title 1 and LAP money are they sitting on?

Also the statement made about "will change how we think about how we do our jobs..." What do they think cutting school budgets do to teachers and admin every year? CHANGE IS HARD!
-tired of suckin'it up

WV: redpalin. hmmmm. So many possible (non-violent )ways to play with that...

Eric B said...

I have to say that this is the most hopeful report of a work session that I have heard in a long time. I hate the gaps, but I love hearing the pushback from the Board.

BTW, another reason most principals hate MAP is that the District doesn't (or doesn't always) fund the computer lab improvements needed to have testing in one location. When we increased the number of computers in the library at our school, they blew the fuses. For a while, the District was trying to put the electrical improvements on the school budget, so the improvements weren't happening. We've made the improvements now, but I don't know if that was building or central funds.

wseadawg said...

The Board has clearly and finally realized what has been obvious to many for some time: SPS protects and serves it's people at JSCEE first and puts schools and kids at the end of the line.

It is irresponsible and downright shameful for MGJ & Co to maintain this charade of "aggressively attacking the achievement gap" blah, blah, blah, while spending millions we don't have on crap we don't need, and most importantly, which does little to nothing for "the kids."

I envision staff getting together with MGJ & Kennedy strategizing how to best characterize and categorize in order to subvert possible board objections and stay on track with their agendas, no matter what suffering or negative consequences might befall the community, because MGJ and her types are all about themselves first.

The fact that MGJ is an objective failure at providing clear information or telling the truth to the community is not only grounds for termination, but a badge of shame on her reputation. She knows better, and doesn't care.

It's not about our kids. It's about the AGENDA of the REFORMERS increasingly being put in charge of our kids.

In lean times we need to live within our means. Everyone else knows this, and is doing so, but only SPS seems to think they can continue to charge on full steam ahead with their aggressive agendas to nowhwere without trimming costs, reigning in some of their agenda or re-evaluating.

The Public Education Crash that's coming on account of these people will be worse than Wall Street's if we don't get these people out of public ed, and fast.

Bird said...

Forgive me if this is a clueless question, but where can I find the line item budget that the district is operating under right now?

I can find documents about various budgets on the SPS website, but not the budgets themselves.

It took me roughly 10 seconds to find budgets on Shoreline's and Bellevue's websites.

dan dempsey said...

OMG!! They lied again!!!
This time to voters.


(And FYI, here's what the district said in their FAQs about the supplemental levy: Central Administration at SPS is 6.25% for 2010-2011, compared with 8% for districts across the state in 2008-2009)

According to OSPI on this page. 2008-2009 spending on Central Admin averaged 7% not 8% and that average was $659 per kid. This is $659 of $9809, which is 6.72%.

Now the District will likely spend around $12,000 per student and 6.25% of that = $750.

The numbers from OSPI provided clearly show Average Spending on Central Admin of $659 = 6.72% in 2008-2009

District proposes to spend 6.25%, which will be about $750 per kid. In 2008-2009 Seattle Spent $1122 of $12,078, which was 9.29%. Now the question is: How are they going to save $372 per kid? Look for reclassification of items out of central admin to other areas would be my guess. What is the figure for academic coaches for teachers? Where is that found?

dan dempsey said...

So how did the 27,000 student Kent SD spend $507 per kid in 2008-2009, when Seattle spent $1122?

Who will get back to us on that?

Charlie Mas said...

Thanks for the link to the Powerpoint, but this is the most un-helpful set of information that I can imagine.

Look at the first slide with numbers, #4:
How did we get to $36.6 million?

Revenue: $8.2
Expenditure Increases: ($28.3)
One-Time Use of Resources: ($16.5)
---------------
Gap ($36.6)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the District's revenue is SIGNIFICANTLY greater than $8.2 million. Is this supposed to represent only revenue increases over the previous year? If so, then where's the money from the supplemental levy? That's supposed to be about $16 million.

The very next slide, on the accumulated budget gaps is a complete mystery to me. What is the message here? It appears to show that the District has spent $550 million each of the three years shown without regard to the fact that revenue was much less than that, but that can't possibly be the case. So what does this slide mean?

Slide 7, Key Points to Remember:
"Our reductions must allow the strategic foundation that has been built to stay in place" Really? Says who?

Then comes the menu of Strategic Plan initiatives, on slides 11-13. Only the menu isn't complete and the prices aren't right. What's up with that?

Amond the staff's recommended cuts is a potential savings of $2-4 million with bus route changes. Why aren't they doing that now? Why is use of reserves listed as two separate items?

aaachhhh! This is really frustrating, meaningless, and pointless! There is nothing here that can be used to get an understanding of the situation or the options or could be used as the basis of a decision.

Dorothy Neville said...

Yes, Charlie, exactly. And that frustration was loud and clear from Michael et al.

As for the details of the gap, I have seen better information on that but am not sure exactly where.

As for the supplemental levy money, well, 5.9 million is earmarked for textbook adoption, some for the teachers contract and not very much else is left. It appears that even though we voted for 16M a year, we won't get that much. There is still a levy lid and therefore we can only get a certain percentage of what the state provides. So if the state provides less -- the supplemental levy is worth less. Last estimate I saw was that we would get 13M in first year, which just about covers the textbook thing and the CBA but not more.

Anonymous said...

I have wanted what Bird is requesting for a long time, and have asked Board members. MY understanding is that there is no uch break-out doc made available at least to Board members. Closest is OSPI report.

AccountingParent

Anonymous said...

And the other thing I want is beakout of costs/expenses/salaries/line items by department.

AccountingParent

Bird said...

I have wanted what Bird is requesting for a long time, and have asked Board members. MY understanding is that there is no uch break-out doc made available at least to Board members. Closest is OSPI report.

I find that completely bizarre. They must have a line item budget for their own internal purpose.

It's troubling that they don't make such a budget public like other districts.

Anonymous said...

"Kay ... referenced Kindles. She also asked if they focused just on the 22 Level 1 and 2 schools, they could probably fund those with just $3.1M."

Kindles? Really? Somehow my kid is literate without one.
I appreciate Kay looking out for us here in the south end, but I've got to believe there are better uses for $3.1M in these dire times. Call me old-fashioned.

-thurston

Charlie Mas said...

Bird wrote: "I find that completely bizarre. They must have a line item budget for their own internal purpose."

Actually, they might not.

One of the problems that the Moss/Adams review discovered was that no one at the District ever compares actually spending to the budget. And, for sure, no one ever cuts off the actual spending when it reaches the budgeted amount.

We have seen how the budgets for some things are made. We saw them develop the budget for STEM. It started with some numbers and vague guesses about where the money would come from. Then, which each passing revision the numbers rose with no reference to what was NOT funded to fund STEM instead. Then, when the actual spending started it all exceeded the budgeted numbers with no mention of where the addition money came from or what was de-funded by it.

Think of how little thought or concern went into all that spending.

Every spending decision is just a decision to spend money on the chosen activity but, in this zero-sum budget, a decision to de-fund another activity. One of the critical missing data points is the de-funded activities.

MAP isn't just costing us millions, it is also costing us the targeted interventions that those millions would have otherwise paid for.

Bird said...

Actually, they might not.

Sounds like the board should adopt a policy that the district publish line item budgets on their website.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thurston, you misread me (or I wasn't clear, probably that).

Kay meant they could continue funding what they were doing at the Level 1 and 2 schools as they have been with the $3.1M, not buy Kindles. That was a random thought she had about the textual materials.

I'm with Charlie; they may not have a line item budget with everything pulled out all in one place. They are loath to create such a document because well, then we would know how the money is spent.

I continue to shake my head how BEX III money (Interest? I'm not sure) goes to pay off the bond on the headquarters.

Meg said...

On the slide showing the growth of the budget gap, it doesn't note that SPS's budgeted expenditures have gone up ~$80 million since 2007-08, from $481M in 2007-08 to $566.9M for 2010-11. Just to note it explicitly, that's an 18% jump in expenditures.

Revenues increased. Revenue increased by 11% in the same time period, from $483M to $537.6M.

The gap slide makes it looks as if SPS has held spending stable and lost huge amounts of revenue, when that doesn't really look like the case at all.

The previous slide notes that there's been a $28M increase in expenditures (?!?!?!), but doesn't break that little gem out. And that $28m increase seems like it would be an important number to look at. Are all of those expenditures truly necessary and/or contractually obligated? The information provided sure doesn't fill us in.

Looking at the long and poorly budgeted strategic plan slide(seriously, how is "no change" letting us know how much a strategic plan project costs?) makes me think that there are an awful lot of projects related to the strategic plan. And it doesn't even look as if they're all listed.

The Moss Adams report also mentioned that amongst the problems the district had - one of which was a dysfunctional, inefficient central administration with no accountability and very little transparency - was that they were trying to undertake too many plans at once, resulting in something of a hot mess. Sound familiar? It's almost hard to believe the report was written in 2003.

Syd said...

The question about Kindles got me thinking. If we want virtual books, then we will need something for kids to read those books on. Otherwise we increase printing costs, which are already substantial, not to mention the great waste of resources for single use print-outs. Not every child has a computer at home, and there are not enough computers in the school for children to use those for reading. When we calculate savings for transferring to virtual books, we have to include a method to read those books.

SC Parent said...

I asked Betty Patu for a copy of the budget back in June. She said the board only gets a hard copy, not electronic. I guess that makes it harder for the information to get "leaked" to the public.