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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Budget Work Session (Part 1)

I attended 4 hours of the Board Work Session on the 2011-2012 Budget. Unfortunately, the meeting was 5+ hours (maybe longer, Dorothy?) It was taped so I will try to get a link if you care to listen.

I will write up my notes but for your reading pleasure here are the following:
  • staff finally got information to the Board that I know the Board has wanted for a long time. This would be benchmarking comparisons to other districts (both local and out-of-state). This chart is for 2009-2010 expenditures and FTE comparisons in dollars.
  • This chart is for 2009-2010 expenditures and FTE comparisons (as a % of total)
My irritation with these is that this is information that should have been presented LONG ago. It overburdened an already long and heavily detailed meeting.
The Powerpoint and another document - the Strategic Plan Budget Planning Tool for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 - are not yet up at the website. You'll want to see those as well but for now, the above charts should keep you busy. The Fiscal document really is key because it gets to the heart of the Strategic Plan. That is one where I will break it into categories and we will parse them out.

My basic overview - there is a lot of talk but no real decisions happening.

I think some of that is the Board's reluctance to say anything outloud. (I digress here. Anyone, is out loud still two words or have we moved to it being one word?)

Staff, in the fiscal doc, did present some ideas of what could be cut and outcomes. Some Board members would say that they might hit pause or not fund something but the next Director would say, no this is too important. I'm not sure I heard agreement on a single thing.

The other push is time is running out. Steve Sundquist couldn't say this enough times.

Lastly, that budget survey? It got mentioned one time at the last Work Session. To the best of my knowledge, staff has put it in the Powerpoint as something they did but staff has not referenced it ONE time in any budget discussion. So much for public input.

I am reading through the Open Comments sections of it and doing a charting of answers. (It's tedious and each comment section has roughly 30 pages of comments. But I think this is important so that the Board will know what was said. Staff seems to have only charted the direct questions.)

13 comments:

hschinske said...

"Out loud" is two words, unless it's one of the many proper nouns with the one-word spelling, such as "Outloud" the band, "OutLoud" the iPod accessory, etc.

Helen Schinske, your friendly neighborhood editor, who is not uptight/up tight/UpTight about these things at all/atall/a-tall

Bird said...

Holy heck!

Spokane has something like 30,000 students, Seattle has something like 45,000.

Seattle spends $47 million on Central Admin; Spokane spends $16 million.

Ouch. On the plus side, looks like we found the way to balance the budget.

Problem solved!

Eric B said...

One of the staffers in the meeting mentioned Spokane (I think, it might have been Kent) being close to the "Houston model" of admin, where the individual school carries much of the administrative burden and central carries much less. I believe they said that each school in Houston has a business manager that handles the budget and revenue for that school.

It's an interesting way to reduce central admin, but I'm not 100% sure I like it. If each school is truly in control of their own budget, do they have an incentive to push out "expensive" students (ELL, SpEd, behavior issues, maybe APP, etc.)? It seems like you could get to incorporating one of the worst aspects of charters into a public system.

Bird said...

Any idea what item that expenditure would be found for Spokane?

I don't see any obvious choices based on looking for a notably higher expense in Spokane.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the central administration supervisory percentages and comparisons with other districts, and hearing families in sped asking over and over what exactly is the value added of supervisors who have 2-3 consulting teachers to supervise and who are NEVER in the schools helping to develop capacity . . . . this is a good area to target to trim down the budget and get some of those resources back to the classrooms where teachers and students need them.

Parent

Meg said...

Looks to me as if staff/district leadership is doing some maneuvering to state who is in control. Take a look at slide 5.

"Staff will provide costs of strategic plan, staff will recommend which Excellence for all strategies to modify... Staff will share the process for developing recommendations for central office reductions."

It looks to me like there's a bit of wrestling match going on as to who is the decision-making power, the board or district management. I think staff is very much saying to the board "we decide, and then you approve what we've decided."

It'll be interesting to see how many board members are willing to politely go along with that - at least 2, but hopefully not 4.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, Meg you just called out an important point. Yes, that is what I saw as well.

What was interesting is that Steve Sundquist said something to that effect. I'll go back and check my notes as I prepare to write part 2.

It is going to be a battle of time ("gotta get it done") versus who really decides.

suep. said...

Eric B said...

(...) It's an interesting way to reduce central admin, but I'm not 100% sure I like it. If each school is truly in control of their own budget, do they have an incentive to push out "expensive" students (ELL, SpEd, behavior issues, maybe APP, etc.)?


Eric, I know this wasn't your main point, but, for the record, APP students aren't more expensive. In fact, the district gets some extra state funding for them, particularly for transportation, the latter of which is used to subsidize transportation for non-APP kids. I believe extra funding is also granted for SpEd kids and maybe ELL. Now whether that funding actually makes it to these kids is another matter.

But I agree that the SPS central office remains bloated and cuts should happen there.

--sue p.

Eric B said...

Sue,

Thanks for the clarification. I was pretty sure APP was not more expensive in dollars, but an administrator might think that they were more trouble, what with their different report cards, different classrooms, etc. I think we would all agree that this would be terribly misguided, but it's a point of view I would not be surprised to see.

I don't have the exact quote, but Steve Sundquist said something like "Staff have recommended a set of cuts that they are comfortable with. Since they're comfortable with these cuts, we shouldn't reverse them, we should only add to them."

I would have been much happier with "Staff have recommended a set of cuts. Keep in mind that anything you want to save from cuts will need offset cuts somewhere else."

dan dempsey said...

Grammarian pro X 2 just upgraded a month ago likes "out loud" but "out-loud" is acceptable.

"outloud" gets corrected to "out loud" with no hyphen.

wsnorth said...

@ "APP students aren't more expensive. In fact, the district gets some extra state funding for them, particularly for transportation"

Actually, this confirms APP IS more expensive, but "somebody else" pays for it. Hmm, who is that "somebody else"? Who do you think the "state" is? Some magical money fairy who sprinkles money on us for free?

Anyway, just trying to dispel another myth. Sometimes expensive is worth it, but $$ is $$.

Charlie Mas said...

There are costs associated with APP. That's indisputable.

There are costs associated with the increased student transportation.

There are costs associated with additional curricular materials.

There are costs associated with the eligibility testing.

There are costs associated with the program's administration.

These are all costs that the District or the state incur for APP. It is generally agreed that we get a good value for these expenses, but there can be no question that there are expenses.

APP classrooms - the teachers - only cost more than regular classrooms when the District is unable to form full classes.

Thank goodness the District is saving money by deferring the response to the APP review.

Maureen said...

There is so much information here. I wonder how well the Board members can parse it out given the time limits. I am wondering how much of the grant funding for strategic plan inititatives is fungible? The powerpoint makes it look as though it all has to be spent on designated initiatives, but is that true? Is some grant money that is just designated for low income schools for instance being spent on performance management when it could be spent in the classroom or on remediation? I don't think any of us could find out without looking through the grant awards. (I tried that with the TIF grant, but only a summary is available online.)

Melissa and Dorothy, thank you so much for following this!