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.