Disqus

Thursday, February 10, 2011

District Budget - Roundup of Random Thoughts

Before going over what was discussed line-for-line, I wanted to throw out some items that popped out to me as ah ha! or oddities or questions.
  • One thing to point out off the bat - and please help me out if you know for certain - is that on the sheet entitled "SPS 2011-12 (Gap) Estimate Summary" (bundled in a group of documents) was a total list of losses from the state. It STILL has Highly Capable as eliminated. I thought that got put back by both the House and Senate.
  • They budget in about $1.16M to reopen Rainier View, Viewlands and McDonald/QA. I had forgotten that basically McDonald and QA will have TWO opening costs because they are first in Lincoln and then go to their own buildings this fall. Interestingly, I hear that Broadview-Thompson could handle Viewlands for another year so maybe the district could consider waiting one more year and save that money.
  • STEM update - $100k. Look for that to be on-going. STEM came along at a time when the district really didn't need a new initiative (that or they should have never spent the funds on the SE Initiative).
  • They are getting rid of the dual-principal idea at RBHS. Great - how about the two principals at Bryant? I slipped Kay a note about this as they were discussing how to backfill if the Board didn't want a cut the staff recommended. Kay brought it up towards the end of the discussion (more on that later) and looked at Dr. Enfield and said, "Wouldn't it save $30-50K if they had just a head teacher or vice-principal?" Dr. Enfield nodded but said nothing. I have no idea what the big mystery is here but again, they need to cut what isn't needed and you don't need two principals for a roughly 570 student high-performing elementary school.
  • If you recall, I did a thread about what I had seen in an advance copy of the proposed cuts. Well, it turned out that the staff changed that copy. That's fine except that the Board and the SEA had the same advanced copy I did and came prepared to discuss that one and then got handed a new one as they sat down. The SEA reps pointed this out and Steve said, "It was new to us as well." WHY does no one ever call staff out on this? So, in going over the cuts, I saw they kept some of what they had initially eliminated. What is odd is that the number of FTE in certain areas had shifted and it was a "huh?" moment. I can see them changing their minds about a cut but how did the FTE suddenly get bigger or smaller?
  • I noted that Lauren McGuire of the SCPTSA was there (for the entire meeting), a Stand for Children rep and, for a small amount of time, someone from the Alliance for Education.
  • SEA reps, Olga Addae and Jonathan Knapp, were given a carefully proscribed time to speak (it almost seems like Steve was counting them down to the minute). Jonathan let them know that there are 3 (count 'em), 3 bills in the Legislature to eliminate the state test as a graduation requirement. Frankly, in these hard times, I say yes. The whole test is in such a shambles, there are end-of-course exams being developed AND national standards coming down the pike. Stop this spending of time and money on something that means almost nothing to anyone until we know what the powers that be truly want the test to represent.

15 comments:

lendlees said...

The advanced learning funding passed (kind of) by the Senate and House was for THIS year--The Governor was trying to retroactively cut AL funding. No one knows about next year...

mirmac1 said...

What's interesting is that, according to this document

http://www.scribd.com/doc/48602928

last year the budget gap was $45.5 million. It's all funny numbers to keep SEA, parents and the Board off balance. Is it the little boy crying Wolf, so that more money can go to all those nice new initiatives?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think that is definitely clear, Mirmac. No matter how the Board phrases it, staff never gives a clear, top-to-bottom, revenues versus spending accounting.

anonymous said...

Not sure why Bryant with 550 or so students has two co-principals, when Eckstein which has 1270 students only has one principal, and a VP?

When my kids were at Bryant the school had one principal and a head teacher, and that seemed to work just fine.

I have a feeling the "co-principal" situation is much more about politics, than school need. Or maybe (and this is purely speculation) the West Seattle principal that they moved to Bryant was so incompetent that they had to pair her with a successful principal for training purposes? Whatever it is, we shouldn't be footing the bill for this while such deep cuts are happening everywhere else.

Kathy said...

I asked Peter Maier about the highly capable funding. Here is what he had to say:


You're correct that the Highly Capable monies were probably restored for the Supplemental Budget for the current year (though that bill is still not final; the Senate and House versions differ, so it goes to Confenence). But Highly Capable is still at risk for the Biennium budget, which is still very much in flux.

Anonymous said...

Good thing SPS closed all of those schools in 2009 and evicted, disrupted, displaced all of children in order to save that, what, seven million dollars?

The kids are so grateful their sacrifices were worth the 2011 -12 budget.


Signed- Never Gets Better From My Perspective

mirmac1 said...

Some interesting things discussed in the Audit and Finance meeting. Where was everybody? I can't take notes!

Seems like there's an extra 3.3 million that got missed in the spreadsheet last night. Lots of bloodletting for nothing. Might get the counselors back (or maybe let principals decide what they want). Still gotta press SEA on the furlough vs. RIFs discussion,though. Can't let those labor folks get cocky.

The SAO has a nice list on its review plate for early summer. Ask them for a copy of their planned areas of study. ASB funds are gonna get a scrubbing.

Seems nobody wants to be the internal auditor (maybe word got out that the job sucks?) They may have to raise the pay to over $100K, sure why not! It's only money.

The public member of the A&F committee...what, no candidates?

The numbers people went through their risk reserve list. Too much for my little brain. Seems Pay for K is too squishy to count on. OMG! $308/month. That's like daycare money!

Didn't hear that the Strategic Plan was gonna get any more trimming. Maybe they haven't seen the survey yet?

Gonna dump the Small Business Utilization policy. Will leave the anti-discimination language, though. Big of them.

mirmac1 said...

Y'know what struck me is the three FTE pulled off the Small Business Utilization work were absorbed into CTE. Wha...? Was there new and added scope to keep them busy? Why were they not on the chopping block like your child's teacher?

Believe me when I say keep all effective and worthy employees on board, but I ask "where did these three fall? Does their loss help your child learn?

Eric B said...

Hey folks, let's take a quick look at what departments aren't getting cut! So, for starters, let's eliminate departments with one or two people, because they might not be able to cut them without completely eliminating the department (hello Evening School!). Once we do that, what offices don't get cut?

Superintendent
CAO *
CFOO
Accounting/Comptroller
General Counsel
Property Management
Risk Management
Child Nutrition Services **

* CAO theoretically gets cut by 0.2 FTE, but the position is actually transferred to a grant, so there's no loss of people in the department.

** Nutrition Services is listed as being a self-sustaining department.

Anyone notice any trends in what programs escape the budget axe?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for that update, Mirmac. I'll have to get ahold of some of those documents. I just couldn't go to both the A&F and Town Hall.

Paul said...

Eric

When it suits them, Child Nutrition is "self-supporting". When they want to protect Central Administration jobs, it costs too much.

Actually, at the end of the day, that Department returns money to the general fund despite the fact that the office staff has tripled in the last few years.

Noam said...

Its our bet that sooner or later the Board has to wake up to the fact that the staff has been playing games with them from the beginning and MGJ is the captain of the "players".

Meg said...

One of the big problems with the proposed cuts is that although virtually every single FTE in "Other Support" was a candidate to be cut, only about 63% of Central Administration employees were candidates (and yes, I'm taking into account that there are numerous administrators billed to teaching - special education consulting teachers and coaches, specifically. They should be billed under central admin, but they're not, so for the time being I'm not counting them).

I'm pretty sure the SPS official rationale is that the positions under discussion are "non-grant." Which raises a couple of issues, the first being that there are a lot of central administration funded by grants that could, presumably, be used for other things.

The larger problem with not considering "grant-funded" positions, especially in an organization with a significant percent of employees who are grant funded, is that you end up in a discussion based on where the revenue comes from, not on what total costs are. And total costs are the issue at hand. If SPS Central Administration is to be genuinely restructured as a lean organization, the whole organization needs to be examined.

I suspect that some of the resistance to doing this is that there are many Central Administration employees who are billed to other cost segments (Other Support, Teaching Support, Teaching - I doubt to Principal's Office, but you never know). Fully showing the organization could involve some uncomfortable discussions about classification of costs.

So instead of getting an org chart of Central Administration employees, regardless of how they're billed, we get "central non-school based employees," a strange interpretation of Central Administration that includes maintenance, custodial, gardeners and Evening School.

It is, of course, entirely possible that everything is above-board. I wouldn't bet that way, but it's possible.

mirmac1 said...

Just goes to show who will be left calling the shots: the grant funders. The taxpayer gets to pay for everything the elite, through their hand-chosen, decide we get to pay for.

Since public employees and their salaries are public information, we should submit a public disclosure request for names, wages, and source of funding for each.

Actually, Board, you should conduct a zero-sum budget review. Go through department by department, regardless of funding, and say do we need this function? Does it directly affect our children's learning? Want to think like a business? There it is.

Meg said...

wait a minute. somehow I missed the $3.3m in uncounted money. Gah.