Budget Me Some of Your Time

By now, everyone knows of the failed second attempt at a referendum by the Christina School District and its supporters.  In the last 6 months we have had many, many more residents beginning to look into the way our public schools are funded.  Even with the referendum failures, one silver lining is the renewed public interest in public school finances.  On a personal note, I am absolutely thrilled that anyone is taking even 5 minutes to look at a financial report for the District because that is 5 minutes more than they were spending on it prior to the referenda.

What I’d like to do going forward is use this blog (and anyone who might share my posts) as a platform to start bringing public school financing, particularly CSD’s, in to the spotlight and transforming it into “the real world”.  Let’s be honest, a 25 page financial report is going make 90% of the people who read it go cross-eyed.  It is chock full of numbers and terms many do not understand and does not really contain the level of description and clarity members of the public want and need to see.  I’d like to begin changing that right now.

Let’s start off by explaining what the Final Budget reports you can find on Christina’s website are not.  They are not low level, highly descriptive, line item lists of what is being spent where and why.  They are not intended to give anyone reading it information on “how much money goes to textbooks?” or “how much money is going to classroom supplies like pencils and paper” or any specific line item expense information.  They are not intended to give anyone reading it an understanding of exactly where the final destinations of all funds are.  They are not, by nature, able to be easily understood by anyone who has not committed some amount of time to learning about the processes that go into creating the document itself.

Then, what ARE the final budgets? The final budget report is intended as a decision making tool to help the Board of Education identify the main sources of revenue for the District, how much revenue is projected to come in, why, and how it will be allocated to the departments/areas within the District and whether the revenue is sufficient to cover all projected costs and if not, what is causing the revenue deficiency.  Its second major purpose is to identify any external or internal factors that will significantly impact the revenue streams or expenses of the District.   A third major purpose is to give the Board of Education an early picture of what District finances will look like at the conclusion of the next fiscal year.  All of this is for the Board’s decision making process about what changes may need to be made to revenue and/or expenses.  The final budget is voted on by the Board of Education as the District’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.  Any expense the District Administration makes that is contained in the budget after receiving final approval from the Board of Education is considered “authorized and appropriate”.

You may be thinking, well where do I go to find out specific information about exactly what the money is being spent on?  Great question.  Stay tuned.

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14 thoughts on “Budget Me Some of Your Time”

  1. One brilliant way to face the charter problem, since that is one of the biggest obstacles facing Christina’s finances, is to have Charters funded as are vocational schools: by line items in the state budget. All property tax money goes into the feeder pattern school district whether or not a child goes to that school or not.

    This would be the quickest and easiest method to insure that the opportunity for a good public education remains available to all.

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    1. I’d support that change in policy under 1 condition. The referendum system has to go first. Granting Charters the same financial authority over their own tax rates like VoTechs currently have continues the uneven funding process we’re facing right now. Charters already enjoy the benefits of wealthy private donors that VoTechs and Traditional Districts do not. VoTechs are able to adjust their tax rates as needed each year without a public vote. Granting Charters the authority to do that while denying traditional districts will do little to nothing to really address the funding inequalities that plague Districts up and down the state.

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      1. JC, I’m going to make some additions to your comment to make it more reflective of the current reality in Christina.

        [Some] Charter schools are not the problem, [the method of funding them in the same manner as traditional schools is.] If they were, parents and students wouldn’t be [fleeing from private and parochial schools and] flocking to them.

        CSD enrollment has been relatively stable over the last few years. Private school enrollment is declining because those students are migrating to charters.

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  2. Get the state out of it all together and return total control to local boards. Money paid for schools with local property taxes should go to the local boards NOT to the state.
    It’s time to eliminate the Delaware Department of Education along with the Federal Department of Education since we don’t want their strings attached to our decisions about what will work here.
    The sooner we have local control the sooner we stop digging this hole we are in.

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    1. DB, I agree with restoring more control to local boards, but we actually need to have Boards capable of governing a school District. Which I’m not sure is the case currently for Christina, not sure how it is in other Districts (perhaps I should find out). Somehow we’d have to reconfigure the board nomination and election process to make them more accountable to the public that elected them.

      In my ideal world at the moment, the State would be out of Districts altogether except for providing funding (via a different process than they do now). And we’d have fewer districts. The Feds can’t get their game together so if we could eliminate the need for their $, all the better for us.

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  3. Two points…. the charters which are an experimental form of education, should be funded by a line item in the state budget. Newark Charter Schools == $13 million dollars… No tax assessment.

    If expiramental Charters are really that important, they should be funded as we would atomic research or trips to Saturn, by line items in a government’s budget….

    If we start slapping on excessive layers of assessments on property, we water down its effect…. The underlying original reason for levying property taxes for schools, was that a good school was beneficial to increasing the value of the property…. That premise is already watered down by the vocational assessment , and would be further diluted by adding an assessment for charters….

    Charters only benefit owners. They are a financial deal, an investment. They don’t benefit students in those schools (they perform less well than their counterparts in public schools) and they hurt the four out of five remaining in public schools (by stealing great sums of money)….. Charters only benefit investors and taxing regular citizens to benefit investors is grounds for all-out revolt.

    Second point, is that due to the imbalance of income across the board…. there is not enough money in a districts property base to fully fund our existing schools, much less build to where we think they should be. We need state money. We need federal money. Most of which comes from assessing the incomes and profits of large financiers.

    In a good world, in a fair world, higher rates of assessments on those stratospheric levels in incomes being made at our expense, should be assessed up to the point where we reach a sustainable level in which the majority of us are happy.

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      1. Kavips, some day I will figure out how to buy you a drink, if I have to wait blindfolded in a car in the parking lot with an envelope full of cash 😉

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  4. One of the obvious cutback that should occur while looking over the 2015 budget, is the $17 million paid out to charter schools…

    That would solve a large part of the short fall, and would benefit all school districts.

    We really need charters to be funded by line items in state budget….. The state needs to raise taxes on the top earners top keep itself balanced if need be…

    But cutting back on a skeleton staff even further, damages education itself… One simply has to look at tailspin education underwent in Philadelphia, to see its consequences….. Christina district is at its bare bones now… Instead of considering amputations, we should be feeding it the food it has been giving to others all these years….

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    1. The double whammy on the Charter funding is 1) Revenue reduction is required by current law and 2) The resulting reduction stemming from the failed referendum will not take effect until NEXT fiscal year (FY17). Meaning CSD will have to pay out an amount in FY16 based on pre-failed referendum spending levels. It’s going to hurt even more than it already does.

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