Sunday, June 14, 2009

Top 10 Low Hanging Fruit

...Ripe to be Cut..... from the Budget.

Didja hear the one about the economy being in rough shape? Assuming you haven't had your head buried in the sand for the last year, then you know it's going to take 3-5 years for our economy (and investments) to return to the Summer 2008 levels. The governor is making an unprecedented cut of 3.5% to school aids. It's time to get serious about cutting the pork out of the school district budget. There's so much pork in there that it's under investigation as the source of the swine flu. You just KNOW there's pork in there when Phil Frei's battle cry for every new program idea is "I can find the money [in the budget] for that".

We've railed --on deaf ears--against needless expenditures like birthday KitKat bars, memorial flowers, and lunch subs/pizza on the taxpayers dime for some time now. The initial response we get from the board (Dr. Culver says his piece wordlessly through clear body language), is "It's such a small amount!". Yeah? Maybe the amounts are small...but they are quickly adding up. Next year, for the first time in memory, individual school miscellaneous budgets are being CUT (about 5-6%) by the district. NOW we are reducing monies available for direct educational benefit of the kids. So NOW we want to reiterate our objections. Cutting out the KitKats, flowers, and pizza should be done before any cuts are made that directly affect education! But that will only happen if the community speaks up. So...e-mail or call school board members and tell them that the kids need to come first. They may not listen, but they'll get the message.

We're not saying that, conceptually speaking, each and every one of the following expenses is inherently wrong. Some most certainly are. For the others, our question is this: are these expenses providing us equivalent (or better) value in return for the cost?

10. Here's a novel thought...maybe we could actually watch the books instead of rubber stamping all expenditures. Does anyone else care if the administration cries "You're micro-managing!"? Is ANYONE really watching the books?

9. There's no place in a public school budget for Flowers/Memorials, KitKats, and luxury lunches. You want these "niceties? Then get a job in the private sector. A word of warning though...even the private sector is cutting these luxuries these days. Read further. Can you stomach more waste?

8. Stop sending a gaggle of school board members to the annual WASB conference when 1-2 could go and share key information with the full board upon return. Better yet...go for the day only! 6 or 7 board members times 2-3 nights stay each at a swanky hotel x 2 nights of ridiculous dinner costs = TOO MUCH! Remember...this is where that wonderful BoardDocs idea came from..

7. Stamp out sea bass (and other exotic fare) dinners for school board members. This sense of entitlement needs to be stomped like a plump cockroach. What's worse is that some school board members are meekly working to correct the others, and they STILL do it! They need to eat like they were paying for it out of their own pockets. And if they can STILL afford it, then are they really representative of our community? 2009 Expenses. 2008 expenses.

6. Stop running to the $250/hr lawyers unnecessarily! Do we really need to consult an attorney over whether to release the resumes and applications of candidates for a vacant school board seat? For the release of names and e-mail addresses of citizens serving on a committee? To determine if something is a violation of open meetings laws? Read further.

5. Eliminate hotel stays for local competitions. 10 miles away? 2 days before the competition even begins. Doesn't make any sense at all. Read further.

4. Completely overhaul the district check review procedure (which doesn't even exist in policy)! You can question a check, but you can't deny payment. Then what's the point?
Read further. Read even more.

3. Require Demand at least 3 bids for (future) architect contracts. NO bidding required on the $100M HS project, 15M Creekside or $14M Horizon projects. How much could we have saved? We'll never know-except that it would have been millions. Read further. Read even more.

2. Eliminate the (High School) Construction Manager @ $7,300 per month. Read more. The original intent was that this position would "pay for itself" through cost savings earned by the district through their management of the construction. What have we ever seen for this job for Creekside? The only "savings" we had was through applying referendum interest income against costs.

1. Cut the power to the energy management contract @ $9,000/month. Ok, so we "avoided a lot of costs" by learning how to turn off lights in empty rooms and set back thermostats at night. For $324,000? Yikes. We're willing to bet that that advice was available somewhere for free. And you know what? There's this thing called the point of diminishing returns. Read more

Wrecker alert!!! There are those (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) that will declare this post a prima facie example of "wrecking". In anticipation, we ask the simple question: How does asking for fiscal accountability equate to "wrecking"?

SP-EYE offers these very simple, sensible suggestions in the interest of helping to build a great, cost-effective, educational Xanadu for the students of Sun Prairie. We want to be part of the solution! We want to be at least the "E" in team. But...but...we can't be part of the solution--part of the team--if you won't let us. You can't chastise us for not being part of the team if you won't pick us!