Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Discussions We Will and Won't Have

It's kind of a moot point now that the state aid projections have been released, but as a lesson for the future, we still think the District and Board need to get on the same page.

The discussions we no longer need to have.

The School Board approved spending $350,000 of fund balance.
Partial credit.  Absolutely, the board voted that.  BUT...what they leave out is that the board made that vote with the express purpose of reducing the tax levy.  NOT as a placeholder to spend additional money.  We suppose in some warped thinking pattern, one could rationalize that since (in the district's eyes) the $350,000 was still earmarked for spending, as if the school board's action was simply a means to justify the district's end to spend $350K more.  In that case, using the money from fund balance actually ends up serving to reduce the levy which could have been.  But that thinking is seriously messed up.  For $120,000+ per year in salary, we expect more pragmatic, fiscally sound, thinking.  Shoulda...coulda...wouldas have no place in budgeting.

The school board removed $75,000 [from the budget] for the Human Resources & Recruitment Specialist.
Yep...they did. But what part of "remove" don't you people understand.  A visit to Webster will tell you that "remove" means to eliminate, to take away.  And...oh most highly paid ones....if something is removed, it's not there to be spent.

The School Board reduced the Building and Grounds budget by $150,000+.
Again with the Language Arts problems.  Now we see why SPASD will never hit the 90% Proficient/Advanced mark on the Language Arts portion of the WKCE.  Hello!  McFly!  If the budget is reduced, then THAT money is no longer there either.  And how can something not there be unallocated.  You've heard of the un-cola?  This is like un-money.

The district will save $150,000 on insurance (worker’s compensation, liability,& property).
We'll give 'em partial credit on this one too.  Yes, it is indeed an awesome thing that the district negotiated this savings. And because they did, we think this is the kind of money that COULD be available to support additional budget initiatives.

The parallel here is in your own household budgets.  If you budget for monthly gasoline costs based on a $3.75/gallon rate and the cost of gas drops to $3.00/gallon (yeah...right) then the difference in cost is additional money for which you budgeted (and for which one assumes you have the revenue).  Therefore you could instead use the savings to take your significant other out to a fancy restaurant....(but probably skip the $350 bottle of "Ryan" wine).  The difference here, folks, is that the district gets HALF its revenue from the taxpayers.  So...does spending this $150K come at a cost to the taxpayers?  Or should it be up to the taxpayers to decide whether it gets spent, or put back into the taxpayers' pockets?   See the problem?

Gone, Baby, Gone
This slide is great.  This is where the District finally sees that there is no unallocated money.  Granted, they still don't understand that there was never any money to be available to be unallocated....but at least they understand that there is no money now.

The discussion we now need to have

We have 3.5%....Do We Hear 4.7%?
This energizer bunny of a district just will not quit!
So, we have "no more unallocated money"...
The district would like to add one or more initiatives, the total tab for which is $$600,000...
They don't think they should have to cut anything...
...and so the only other option is to change the school board's budget parameter of a tax levy increase not to exceed 3.5%.  If the board votes to fund all of these initiatives, that's a 37.5% increase in the tax levy we've discussed thus far.  The tax levy increase would rise to 4.7% (or more).

And this when other districts are REDUCING the tax levy from 2010-11 levels.