South Washington County Schools established the budget matrix to provide a "simplified" District 833 cost per student spending profile. They compare the per student spend across seven broad categories (on the left) against various levels of service those spend achieves (top). While this approach seems nice on the surface, it in no way affords a responsible way to make good decisions. With an annual budget of around $250,000,000 the devil is in the details and accountability for sound judgement cannot be assumed. It requires transparency to the programs and the line-item accounting of the district's past, present, and future spending plans.
A major drawback of the matrix is it's oversimplification. The spend levels are given in discrete amounts and the level of service rendered is subjective based on how the administration views the playing field; not necessarily how the parents, students, and taxpayers may see it. This was evident during the citizens feedback given during the "Community Conversations" the district held these past two months. Examples were the negative response by the public against the planned cancellation of Band and Reading Recovery. The sacred cows, not to be considered, were programs like IB, AVID and World's Best Work Force.
To make a responsible decision, it is necessary to analyze all available resources which would include the line-item budget; it's common sense. A leader would make certain that, for planning and evaluation purposes, board members would return to the original line-item budget for reference. Unfortunately, for all of us, District 833 School Board members made a decision to shove a $180 million referendum down the throats of taxpayers this coming November without the benefit of a program-by-program / line-item budget review.
So what are the line-item numbers behind each of the Service Level Matrix categories? Why aren't administrators releasing an individual line-item budget to the school board and to members of the community? Why didn't school board members demand access to the line-item budget before agreeing to ask taxpayers for more money? We deserve the courtesy of reviewing the budget details to make a determination as to why the administration has incurred liabilities in excess of appropriations. How did the fund balance drop so drastically that we now have an $8.5 million shortfall?
It is your right as a taxpayer to have a line-item budget made available to you. Please make a request for the line-item budget to members of the school board so you can see for yourself. Oh, and let us know if they charge you for the information.
Leadership is a rare quality. A true leader drives for results, is strategically focused and makes high quality decisions. It would appear that leadership in District 833 is sorely lacking. Therefore, the second nominee for "PUCK of the Month" is District 833 School Board Chair, Ron Kath.
Our "PUCK of the Month" will be announced on Feb. 28. Ahhh...the suspense!
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Updated 2/23/2015 9:27am