Sunday, July 26, 2009

When can a level funded budget increase?

The School Committee meeting on June 23 left me with doom and gloom. The budget deficit had yet to be resolved. The budget was to be level funded. There was no hope of "found money". The numbers were still not balancing and yet tipping in the wrong direction.

How many teachers would end up going out the door?

It seemed likely that a minimum of 40 would. How many more would go was the question that remained. However, I returned from travel to find that of the 60 school personnel notified only 12 would not be returning.

How had this come about?

This was a question several readers here asked me to help explain. I did not have the answer initially. A recent newspaper article did not explain. Even the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 21, left me with questions unanswered.

What was the answer?

A conversation with Jeff Roy resulted in the answer. The level funded budget from the Town didn't change. What did change was that all the stimulus funds from either the Federal or State sources were added to the level funded Town budget. That made a big difference. To the tune of $1.1 million. (actually $1,133,953 according to the School Committee)

How did that help?

Instead of ending up with a level funded budget, we ended up with a level funded plus budget. So all the talk of a level funded budget is from the Town Council perspective. The Town did not provide the Schools with anything more than they School got for the prior fiscal year. The Schools benefited by adding the various Federal and State stimulus funds in to the mix to end up with level funded plus.

Is that wrong?

No. At least, I don't believe so. I just wish the discussion around this subject had been more clear. If I spend as much time as I do attending and participating in the various meetings and I get lost, then I can not fault the 'average' Franklin voter for getting lost.

How do we address this?

Better communication is not just a trite answer. The communications and discussions need to be focused with the end user in mind; in this case, the school parents and taxpayers. What will affect them?

What will parents see when they return to school in September?

The school class sizes will be available for one of the August School Committee meetings. Principals are working on the final details for their staffing now (in amongst their summer time off).

What will tax payers see when the next tax bill comes in?

No increase this year due to the level funding. Next year, the fiscal year 2011 will be a different story. Most, if not all of the additional stimulus items used to fund the budget this year are one time dollars. They will not be available next year.

What additional programs were cut?

I am not aware of additional programs that were cut.

Were any of the fees raised?

The fees for after school activities, sports and pay-to-ride remain at last year level.

How can the School Committee improve the discussion?

There is a general reluctance to share the spreadsheets. I understand that the numbers can change. They should be made available. Ensure that they are time stamped and clearly marked that as of this point in time, these are the dollars and this is the effect (i.e. number of positions lost). This would at least help us understand how we go from point A to point B. This will at least ensure that when numbers are bantered back and forth at the meeting, we all can attempt to follow the discussion.

What is the final level funded budget plus number?

You can click over to the School Committee blog to find the numbers there.

A couple of notes to help understand the spreadsheet on the School Committee page:
  1. Attrition is the difference between what the 9 retirees were paid and what the replacement teachers will be paid. Hence a savings of $210,000.
  2. While the number always talked of that each position reduced costs about $50,000, with 12 positions cut the 500,000 shown by this math should be 600,000.
  3. All the dollars on the right column added to the budget are one time dollars.
If you still have any questions, please let me know. I'll do my best to explain.

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