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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Budget Work Session

I attended the Budget Work Session on Wednesday.  It was pretty sobering.  Key facts:
  • There is a projected deficit of $18.4M.  I would love to explain it all to you (and I will try to at least get the PowerPoint up by tomorrow) but frankly, I look down at the paper version and I don't know what half of it is.  Imagine my happiness (and surprise) to hear Board Directors say, "Now, what is this?" because they don't know either.  I don't know if it is the Budget office trying to use smoke and mirrors or just too much jargon but if the people who will make the final decisions don't know what you are talking about, you're doing something wrong.
  • By April 10th, we will have the Governor's budget, the House budget and the Senate budget.  We were told that is when "the rubber meets the road."  The Governor released his budget today and it seems quite favorable to K-12 ed (if not quite the amount everyone would want).  He seems to be finding the money through closing many tax loopholes.
  • KEY FACT: transportation may be cut back and big, big changes in the future for times and service.  Between the boundary changes and the transportation changes, parents expect a seismic shift.
  • Sequestration issues have not hit the district yet and it may be a year before the district feels it..
What are some solutions?  The solutions presented could close the gap to $6.1M.  Again, I do not know what these all mean and they were not gone thru one by one in order to allow maximum time to talk about transportation. 
  • one-time use of Unassigned Fund Balance
  • one-time use of Assigned Fund Balance - Pension
  • increase in Full Day K rate from $272 to $311 per month  (that would be about 15% which one reader commented was about what they said would happen)
  • Capital Transfer for Software Costs under BEX IV
  • Maximize Current Year Underspend (hiring/spending freeze)
  • Charge Stipends to TIF
  • Transportation Saving - EEU (this one surprised me.  This is talking about transportation for the UW EEU school program for ALL students.  I had thought they only transported Special Ed children but apparently not.)  
Other Potential Solutions that would cut the deficit to $1.9M (partial and most have a question mark for how much they might save):
  • withdraw 20% non-staff hold back from schools - apparently the district holds back 20% of a school's projected budget until October counts but could just withhold it longer.  Apparently other districts don't allow this.
  • savings through bargaining (I'm guessing they mean the teachers contract, good luck with that).
  • Central Adm reductions (very funny - "eliminate second SE Ex Director")
Then they came to "Potential Additions for 2013-2014" which was totally mystifying to me and the Directors had questions as well.  This list may mean spending they really want to do but can't until they close the gap (and find more money in the couch?  I don't know).
  • Hamilton staffing capacity costs - apparently Hamilton may need more teachers for capacity management.  
  • Int'l School Certificated Staff and Middle School Recovery - totally not explained but it was stated that at Beacon Hill and McDonald they may have a building situation where they have Japanese and Spanish classes together.  I find this odd because it was not mentioned at ALL at the Board meeting where they were talking about funding staff.  Hmmm.  (The middle school recovery part is to pay for long-term suspended/expelled students to continue middle school reentry and get behavior modification counseling.)
  • TIF Grant backfill - Ah, yes,  districts love to take grant money but oh, is the devil in the details.  Every grant has its costs to a district.  Well, for TIF, our district may have to now pay for some TIF positions.  Kay asked if they knew about this from the beginning and the answer was yes.  So we took this grant knowing that, down the road, we would have a sort of "balloon" payment to come.
  • Professional Development - at a whopping $5.9M
  • Elementary math adoption
  • Assessment changes (this has a question mark and you have to wonder if anything can change with MAP because there may be no money to make changes)
  • Retrofit Crew Project (no idea)
  • Elementary Counselors (looks like they would like to bring them back but it's $6.3M)
  • International Schools - at $700k and I wonder what this is.  No idea as we have been repeatedly told that the international schools get no extra money and I haven't heard of any new ones opening up.
  • Wallace Foundation Arts Grant Match - this is not happening because we didn't get the grant
  • HS College&Career Specialists - again, it looks like they want to bring these back but where to find the dollars?
  • City Year Proposal - I love City Year but I don't know exactly what this is for.
  • United Way Parent Child Home Program
  • IB programs - this one has a question mark for its dollar figure.  Betty Patu worried over this one and her concern was acknowledged.  
The upshot is that it is very unclear how this gap will get closed in full AND how to fund any of the above items.

Transportation thread to come. 

22 comments:

mirmac1 said...

As I've often said, managing our budget by "gap analysis" is wrong-headed. How is this mysterious gap calculated? It's such a fuzzy number (staff will say as much, with ??'s all over their balance sheet). How does trimming a little here, hacking a bit there, build upon programs and services that work? This kind of haphazard speculation progressively has starved our buildings of funds and destroys librarians/nurses/FTEs. 20% holdback? How much lost instructional time is there at the start of the year when schools aren't fully staffed?

Who truly has a grasp of the district's financial gestalt? From their questions, the board certainly doesn't.

And, when mentioning the SE Exec Dir, staff warned against further cuts to central admin thereby making it difficult to support those principals and making them into instructional leaders(!)

Nobody seemed to want to come right out and say what all that PD was for. S'funny, it's like somebody told T&L it's Christmas what on your wish list! My guess is it's for the Alliance's HR consulting teachers, to add to the consulting principals, like we have extra budget to build more mid-management positions.

Our district has spent many $M in TIF money for automating HR functions, many in personal service contracts to Brainbox Consulting and others for the "student growth" evaluation tool. Yet HR is still dysfunctional and not automated. How's that working out?

mirmac1 said...

Here is the "gap" analysis from Wednesday's Board work session:

3-27-13 Budget Work Session Handout

Anyone care to interpret this stuff?

Watching said...

$5.9M is for staff development in relationship to Common Core Standards- the unfunded mandate. This is just the beginning. There will be a need for materials and IT support, which the district will be unable to afford.

The TIF grant is an albatros around the district's neck. MGJ sought this funding. The initial amount was $12.5M. Funding was used for administration costs, data, career ladders, bonus dollars for teachers that wanted to teach in high need schools etc. Yes, the district will need to pick up these costs when the grant runs out. Each year, the amount will increase.

Anonymous said...

It appeared this year that many of the mid-level management positions- such as Apostle in HR- received the title of Assistant Super rather than their previous titles. I assume these came with the variety of huge pay increases we have seen in the past that were justified as "necessary to retain talent". What kind of "talent" in mid magagement does SPS possess and why is it SO expensive?
Blant Waste

Watching said...

"Someone" worried too much funding was being spent on IB.

mirmac1 said...

And why do we still have a deputy superintendent? I thought that role was to bridge the time while Banda got up to speed? Don't get me wrong, Bob Boesche is much more courteous than most, he is fast turning into the permanent "temporary" administrator. I too often see him plugged in to run interference for Banda.

So with the deputy and stable of assistant superintendents - that's half of JSCEE right there!

mirmac1 said...

Why doesn't that someone worry about too much being spent on International schools?!

Anonymous said...

And just what does the district do with the over $13,000 per student that the state pays? Why is it that Seattle seems to be in a constant budget deficit as they recieve as much money per student as other districts do? O\Srrounding districts don't seem to go from one money crisis to another year after year.
Frugal

Melissa Westbrook said...

Frugal, you sure about that figure? Every Seattle school student has $13k attached to him/her?

mirmac1 said...

The BEA for gened is on the order of $5K. Total funding per student/by school from all sources is shown here:

Funding Per Student 2010

The amounts shown are inflated because it spreads SpEd and ELL dollars over all students in the building, which is not allowed but happens anyway.

Anonymous said...

Melissa-
That is what Rueven Carlyle (sp?) told me. He said over 13K per student.

Frugal

RosieReader said...

IB isn't funded at all right now, so I wonder what "someone" is worrying about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reuven should know better. That figure is NOT accurate (and if it was, Washington State would have a much higher ranking for funding and be in the top 10 in the nation).

Frugal, as to why they run a constant deficit, I'd say they have internal and external issues. Funding has been cut, repeatedly. Costs have risen. Is the district a fiscally tight ship? Nope. And when they do dumb things like take on a grant that will end up costing more money to manage than it's worth, it's a problem.

Anonymous said...

Smarter Balance annual testing will require one computer for every eight to ten students. There will probably be a need for peripherals to support testing (e.g. headphones). There will be a need of between 5-20 kbs bandwidth per student being tested simultaneously.

What kind of investments will be necessary to support the required state summative assessement starting 2014-2015?

If each year about 1/2 of the K-12 enrollees take a state summative assessment, then SPS will need some 2000 computers among its 100 schools to test every SPS student once per year.

I wonder how many SPS currently owns can be used to support testing? How many new computers will need to be purchased?

I hope SPS decides to purchase the least costly instrument to support the need!

JS

Watching said...

Common Core Standards is an unfunded mandate. I don't believe schools will be able to fund IT support, materials, professional development etc.

This will be another politically motivate debacle.

mirmac1 said...

JS,

Isn't it reassuring that SPS spent $2.4M in grant money (that'll it'll now have to backfill) for IT to hire consultants to program roster verification?

yeah, didn't think so.

mirmac1 said...

On the question of what training and PD is planned:

Equity and Race Department
Professional Development Report to the School Board


Special Education Professional Development Update


As a Sped parent I would say that, on the latter, that is encouraging news - particularly with respect to disproportionate discipline of students with disabilities, something SEAAC has been focused on since last summer.

Watching said...

Mirimac,

Is the roster identification part of the TIF project?

mirmac1 said...

Yes. And after last week's board session I believe it has hit home for some members of the board that these grants come with years-long financial impacts. And to what effect? Well, once I get ratings of teachers (of tested subjects) based on student growth versus multitudinous other factors, we will (not) know. Don't worry, I won't pull an LA Times hatchet job.

Anonymous said...

I hope they can bring back elementary counselors. That would be great news for students and for moving towards eliminating the achievement gap.

foroccupyingjsc

Stunned said...

It is 2013 and most of Seattle's North-end elementary schools are still using whole language materials/curriculum to teach kindergarten and 1st graders how to read.
Their best case scenario hopes fill me with dread. It seems it's going to be another decade before anybody even notices we are utilizing the least effective "learn to read" methodology possible, one that was debunked by ALL research 15 years ago.

Watching said...

TIF grant was intitiatially applied to 45 low performing schools. The district was supposed to roll this plan throughout the entire district. It just doesn't seem possible because of funding.

TIF was used to fund a lot of administration, career ladder positions, bonus dollars to get teachers into high end need schools, and endless amounts of data. Another Fed. grant with too many striings.