Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Balancing the Budget

Based on current figures, reduced funding and increased expenses will result in a net loss of $4.6 million for the 2011-12 school year. To balance our budget we have identified $3.1 million of cuts to our current programs and will be digging into our fund balance for the remaining $1.5 million.  The anticipated fund balance at the end of the 2011-12 school year will be close to $9 million that translates to an expected fund balance as a percent of expenses of 11.4% at the close of the next fiscal period.

It’s pretty clear that in subsequent years funding will continue to be reduced while expenses continue to rise. In making the cuts proposed for next year we have made every effort to “keep the dollars in the classroom.” This will no longer be the case in future years.(Click here to view the proposed reductions for the 2011-12 school year)  

I applaud our neighbors to the north for developing a sound financial plan to creatively increase revenue. But, I estimate this took them about four years to develop and implement; we don’t have four years and if we don’t do something quickly, those parents who are complaining that we will have thirty students in a class next year will wish we did have only thirty students in a classroom!

So, the question becomes, “How can we continue to provide a quality educational program for our students and, at the same time, remain fiscally solvent?”  

My answer to this question requires a significant paradigm shift so that our strategic and financial planning are not predicated on continuing to educate our students and providing a multitude of services in the same manner that we are currently doing so. Our current system has become financially impossible to support and, quite frankly, it is an antiquated system.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that we change “what” we want students to know and be able to do although we do need to expand content to integrate 21st century skills (that’s a topic for another Blog). I am, however, suggesting that we redefine the “how, when and where” we provide educational opportunities for our students taking advantage of the advances of technology to do so.

As we look back at the highlights of the 2010-11 school year, we have much to be proud of with student achievement, awards and recognitions.  However, while it’s always instructive to look back at the end of the year to see where we’ve been, it is more important to look forward to determine where we’re going.

In a few short weeks, four newly elected School Board Members will officially take office joining three current Board members.  I will be proposing to the “new” Board that our first order of business is to revisit the district vision and mission statement and revise the district strategic plan accordingly while simultaneously developing both a short term and long term financial plan to support the strategic plan. 

This will serve a variety of purposes to help us establish realistic goals and objectives consistent with our mission within a defined time frame to ensure the most effective use of our human and financial resources.  Most importantly, it will set the course of action for providing our students the best opportunities for a world-class education.