Sunday, August 22, 2010

Budget Session: Which School Board Members Tried to Lower Your Taxes

Referendum Surplus:  (~ $80,000)
John Welke: Other than the money reserved for the greenhouse, we have about $80,000...couldn't that be applied against the debt levy?
Jim "Seabass" McCourt:  I say none [be applied to the debt levy].
John Whalen:  The feedback I got was, "we approved it so spend it all".
John Welke: I wouldn't restrict yourself to a figure of $80,000.  I'd say whatever the surplus is we apply it against the debt levy.  Suggested the board needed to decide whether or not to commit to the greenhouse.

School Board Salaries (Budget calls to re-instate the 5% cut made at the annual meeting last October)
John Welke:  We need to do some more whittling.  I think restoring board stipends would be a mistake; the community was clear.  We should freeze board salaries at 2008-09 levels.

Contracts vs. Budget (Board recently settled with Administrators for a 1% increase; 1% increase in health insurance premium co-pay; 2% increase in dental premium co-pay.  Amount budgeted has not been shared, but word is that the budget planned for a 2.5% increase and NO increases to health/dental premium co-pay.
John Welke: Some contracts have been settled at a savings over what was budgeted; where is that savings?
[Phil Frei:  We haven't made that adjustment yet]

Enrollment (Budget called for 133 new students).  We get about $6,000 in state aid for each new student.  But the accounting is based on a 3-year average, so "new" students count only 1/3.    
John Welke:  asked where we are at with enrollments and how that factors into the budget.
Phil Frei:  As of today the count is at +291 students, but we don't know yet how many won't show up.
Welke: Are there any proactive efforts we can take to identify those that might be leaving the district?

SP-EYE note:  if the number stands at 291, that means the state aid revenue increases by approximately $300-$325,000.  IF the new students do not require hiring any additional positions, the tax levy COULD be reduced by that amount.

$1.3M Surplus from 2009-10
John Welke:  When are we going to see where we saved the money?  Can we apply some of the surplus against the tax levy?
Jim McCourt:  Proposed using $500K of the surplus to apply against the tax levy and $200K for property tax chargebacks.
John Whalen:  "My thought as well...the message was loud and clear that people want something from fund balance".

Attendance at State School Board Conference (Budgeted amount ~ $4500)
Jim McCourt:  I would suggest we not attend the conference; cut $4500.
David Stackhouse: I disagree with taking the school board budget for the state conference out.
John Whalen:  I agree [with Stackhouse]

SP-EYE note:  Hmmm...maybe Stackhouse just liked the looks of those sea bass dinners that McCourt had.

Chamber of Commerce Membership (~$1300)
John Welke:  Any thoughts on that Tim [Culver]?
Culver:  The chamber is a little disappointed.  It's an opportunity to work with the business community.
Welke:  We can still work with them...we don't have to be a member...right?
Decision: Postpone for input from Terry Shimek, the Chamber liaison.

SP-EYE note:  What's the point?  Shimek will probably find a reason to abstain from any vote.

Early estimate of the 2011-12 budget picture
Caren Diedrich:  Phil, do you have an inkling of what the tax levy for 2011-12 might be?
Phil Frei: "It can't be good given the state budget picture".

Legal Representation at Expulsion Hearings
Caren Diedrich:  If we're still looking at reductions, we've had about 30 expulsion hearings in the past 2 years.  Do we really need to involve an attorney at those hearings?

National Travel Budget ($15,000)
John Welke:  $15K for national travel...what would that be for?
Phil Frei: 2 board members used to go to the national school board conference; the national Math conference.
Welke:  If we don't attend the state school board conference, is there really value in attending at the national level?  I'd be in favor of at least reducing the budget by the amount for board members.
John Whalen:  I'd rather set some $$ than no $$.
Jim McCourt: I don't want to see us fall beyond by not attending [and catching on to the latest information].

Substitute Teachers
Caren Diedrich:  Administration should give a little more scrutiny to when we need substitute teachers.  At the high school level...send them to study hall.

Staff Development [Budgeted $20,000]  Curriculum Development [Budgeted $10,000]
John Welke:  Is there any opportunity there [to reduce those budget items] without directly impacting students?

Building and Department budgets [restored 5% budget cut, costing ~ $200K]
John Welke:  How much of that $200K would go directly to teachers and their classrooms? [about 50%]
Welke:  Instead of restoring the full 5%, could we restore 2-3% [of non-school budgets]
Welke:  I'm nervous about restoring too much too fast.  What if property values [equalized value] drops by 1% instead of being flat as budgeted?

Jill Camber-Davidson:  Is there anything we can do with purchasing, for example buying at Office Depot [where we have a purchase contract discount] rather than Walmart?
So...when push comes to did your duly elected representatives try to help you out? The tally:
John Welke: Identified 9 budget line items ripe for reduction (didn't get much support).
Caren Diedrich: Raised 3 budget areas that could be targeted for cuts...but most were pretty out there.
Jill Camber-Davidson: Not very vocal.  Only spoke about one area to make reductions.
Jim McCourt: Net Zero.  Wanted to make 2 cuts, but voiced opposition to 2 others.
Terry Shimek:  Net Zero...because he wasn't there.
David Stackhouse:  Minus 1. Not very vocal.  Did not support cutting school board budget to attend state conference....which we find intersting since, based on "policy", he wouldn't be eligible to attend.
John Whalen:  Net Minus 1.5.  Supported 1 reduction, opposed 2 others.  On a 3rd we gave him only half (negative credit) for wanting to spend "some".

All in all, not much was accomplished because no votes were taken.  It's really not clear what impact this session had on the budget.  The two things that were clear: (1) the tax levy will be reduced by $500K out of the $1.3M surplus, and (2) John Welke was the only board member targeting areas for budget reductions.  And all he spoke about were administrative areas that do not affect the education of our kids.