Is Prioritized Spending an Answer to Declining School Funding?

Is Prioritized Spending an answer to declining school funding?

The school district budget has two pieces – Revenue and Expenses.

$ 30 million which is 85% of the District’s projected 2011/12 Revenue should come from the State.  The problem is the District does not actually know how much it will receive.  Since the budget crisis started the State has been withholding more than 20% of our funding.  Total Revenue has been dropping over the last 4 years.  Budget allocations are often not finalized until the fall.

Expenses are different. The district can accurately forecast what each and every item in the budget will likely cost.  One of the problems with the current system is the need to frequently re-evaluate what will be cut when there are additional revenue reductions.

One way to address this issue is a prioritized spending plan.  Like a line item budget every expense is detailed in a list.  The list is then prioritized.  As revenues drop the items at the bottom (lower priority) are dropped.  The list and the priorities need only be discussed and set one time.

Advantages of a prioritized spending plan are:

  • The process becomes much more transparent.  Everyone knows exactly what will be cut if funding is not available and what will be reinstated if funds do become available.
  • The collective bargaining units clearly understand what would be gained if they grant concession to the School District.
  • The School Board can better assess how much of the reserves should be used on a year by year basis.
  • Citizen fundraising groups could better focus on the funding goals needed to save specific programs.

The School Board is interested in your input.  This item will be discussed at the next Board meeting on May 19th.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Livesay May 13, 2011 at 01:37 AM
What about the district employees. The folks that are employed at the district. Was there RIF and salary reduction done at the distrcit level? If not, Why? Bob Livesay
Shirin Samiljan May 13, 2011 at 06:27 PM
District employees are union members, unless they are members of management. Management employees are not only at the district office, but are also at school sites. After the two unions negotiate, then management negotiates, usually as a me-too. Some are on individual contracts, some are not. Thus it's not really an easy question to answer as there isn't ONE class of employees that have benefits and salary which are easy to cut. Thing is, in this system, the easy cuts have already been made.
Shirin Samiljan May 13, 2011 at 06:28 PM
That being said, I agree with Steve's idea of prioritized budgeting -- every year the same issues come up and every year we find ourselves at the end of the school year scrambling for solutions.
Robert Livesay May 13, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Sorry it does not matter. Cuts should be cuts for all employees. Adams takes a increase that is just pure greed. It is ok to do a RIF and not cut staff salary or also a RIF? Very concerned about how the money is being spent. Bob Livesay
Shirin Samiljan May 13, 2011 at 07:25 PM
No, I'm sorry. It is not pure greed. I too am very concerned about how money is being spent. I am concerned about how children are being taught and what sort of evaluation we have that our teachers are teaching well and that the children are learning well. From personal experience, I have reason to be worried about teaching quality, evaluation procedures, and depth of instruction, but I'm not going to ascribe motives of avarice or sloth to anyone in the BUSD system. The superintendent's contract, unlike other employment contracts, is a public document -- her salary increases which are built in are exactly analogous to the standard increases built in to the union contracts. Let's take talk of greed out of the discussion.
Robert Livesay May 13, 2011 at 07:56 PM
I will not take greed out of the discussion. If it was an Oil co. Exc. you would say greed. She stated she needed the money. What about the folks that will not have a job, do not they need the money also. If it is not greed then it is selfish. All salary adjustments should be the same for everyone. All cut position should be the same for District employees, no preference. Sorry you are up tight. I may be the only one that wants the city to give money to the schools. Do not tell me what to say. Bob Livesay
Karen LaRiviere May 13, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Bob, watching every penny is critical - but the Superintendent has passed on previously allowed salary increases that she was entitled to before she was Sup and during. That she took this one does not make her "greedy." Many teachers receive annual "step and column" increases. Are they "greedy" because they take those increases that they have worked hard for because their co-workers are being laid off? No. The Sup's salary might look like a lot of money but compared to Department Heads at City Hall and even Assistant Dept. Heads, her salary is a bargain considering she is responsible for 350+ employees, 5000 students, 7 locations, and all the regulatory red tape you can dish out. And you're correct, if she were an Oil Company exec, I would say "greed on steriods" but that's not even a fair comparison. $11 million a year for the CEO of ConocoPhillips vs. $175,000 for a School District Superintendent who again is directly responsible for 350+ employees, 5000 of our kids and 7 school sites cannot be compared. The City of Benicia has "Assistant" department heads with FAR less responsibility making considerably more and with MUCH better benefits and retirement than the Superintendent.
Robert Livesay May 13, 2011 at 09:06 PM
This is her chosen profession. If she wants an other profession she should go for it. She knew what the salary was going in. I would not mind her salary increase if she hasdnot said she has some fonancial issues. That is not the distict problem that is hers. Very poor choice of words, now the RIF employees will have big financial problems. Most working people would trade places with her any day. You must get real, we are in very tuff times. . She should have refused the salary increase and joined the club. Bob Livesay
Robert Livesay May 13, 2011 at 09:42 PM
How many district employees were RIF? How many had to take furlough days. How many had healthcare premiums go up. All I ask is everyone should be treated the same in these tuff times. Is that to much to ask? Bob Livesay
Shirin Samiljan May 15, 2011 at 02:39 AM
All employees, including those classified staff employed at the district office, have lost three days of pay this year due to furloughs -- those were across the board. Layoffs would impact the district office if the district office staff happened to have low seniority. RIF layoffs are not done department by department with an eye towards protecting this school site or the other -- if the members are at the low end of the seniority table, then they are laid off. We have employees at who are laid off every year and rehired every year. Thing is, with no money, there's a very good chance that many will not be able to be rehired. Layoffs have to do with positions, not people nor school sites. There's no personal motive ascribed to the process.
Shirin Samiljan May 15, 2011 at 02:40 AM
http://www.beniciaunified.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=178&Itemid=155 "Last spring in an effort to save funding for our schools, every teacher, classified employee, and administrator generously agreed to reduce their number of work days by three furlough days. The reduced work year resulted in 177 instructional days for students instead of the usual 180 days and as a result school is ending earlier than usual. Each unpaid work day saved the district’s general fund $137,000.... No one wants less instructional time for our students. I want the public to be aware that the reduced year resulted in reduced income for every employee and this sacrifice was made on behalf of Benicia’s students. "
Robert Livesay May 15, 2011 at 03:02 AM
Simple!! How many district employees were layed off compared to teachers and support people at the school level? Should be simple to answer. Bob Livesay
Shirin Samiljan May 15, 2011 at 05:50 AM
Obviously there are going to be fewer at the DO because there are fewer employees at the DO. Schools have a hard time running with no district office. Who gets a sub if the teacher is unable to come to work? Who fills out paychecks? Who runs background checks on volunteers, aides and coaches? Who fixes the network when it crashes? It's not either/or when people are out of money. Everyone suffers. How's about not pitting one group of employees against the other? We are going to have to do less with fewer people -- the entire system suffers under these budget strains, and it NOT the fault of anyone at the district level.
Shirin Samiljan May 15, 2011 at 05:54 AM
Back to the topic of Mr. Messina's article, do you agree that there should be prioritized spending in order to plan budgets in outgoing years? Or do you believe that someone or a group of people in the DO must take a specific salary cut before the end of this year before a prioritized list of line items is developed? If so, what would be the purpose of punishing the secretaries at the DO?
Robert Livesay May 15, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I just would like you to answer my question. By the way is the BUSD salary/benefit and all pay data base posted on the CCTimes yet? Just give the answer to the question I asked. Bob Livesay
Shirin Samiljan May 15, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I don't know the answer. It could be that no district office employees were laid off. The layoffs are announced as reduction via percentages, not as individual people. I haven't been paying close attention to this as it's not my issue. It seems to be a topic you are concerned about; why don't you call the business office or the personnel office and ask? I don't see what the CC Times has to do with this blog post at all.
Robert Livesay May 15, 2011 at 02:45 PM
I will call and find out. Also about the data base. Could be very interesting info. Stay tuned. Bob LIvesay
School Employee & Benicia resident June 02, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Well I know of 90 classified positions who lost jobs or hours for next year. Not much publicity or much said because the district/board slipped them in within days of proposing them. Took most of us by surprise. Personally, I lost the equivalent of 40 days of pay with my cut for next year. There is also talk of losing 5 more days as "furlough" days, which makes 45 days of pay cuts. These cuts affect increased medical premiums, retirement, and other benefits. Needless to say, making ends meet next school year will be more than a challenge. Not exactly the best climate to find another job either.


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