Where to cut $5.2 million? | School budget presentation/survey combo invites feedback

Source: Wenatchee World

 

Date-night movie material it might not be, but Wenatchee School Board members are hoping Finance Director Larry Mayfield’s budget slideshow and presentation will get plenty of views from community members, parents, school staff and students.

Those viewers will be asked to complete an online survey to help board members decide how to close the gap on the district’s projected $5.2 million budget deficit for next school year.

The live presentation is being offered three times in the next two weeks and a video of the presentation will be available online for those who can’t make it — or who want to see it again. The informational meetings, all at the Wenatchee High School New Commons, are:

  • 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.
  • 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday.
  • 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 29.

The survey asking for viewer feedback on how to prioritize cuts opens after Wednesday’s meeting and will continue through Feb. 3.

The hope is stakeholders will watch either a live presentation or a video of the presentation to get the big-picture view before completing the survey.

We can’t force them to watch it, but we will ask if they attended a presentation or watched the video,” Ron Brown, the district’s director of instructional technology, told board members Thursday. “That might give us some insight.”

The live presentations provide an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, but will not be a venue for gathering feedback on the priorities, said Assistant Superintendent Jon DeJong.

The survey provides the opportunity for that,” he said. “We are talking about livelihoods, programs and it will be emotionally charged. It’s going to be a difficult process. People have the opportunity to get down to the nitty gritty suggestions, but in a public setting, with microphones, is not the way to do it.”

Each school staff member and high school student will get an email invite to the survey, and it will be accessible online by parents and community members.

The budget presentation includes an overview of school funding changes introduced by the Legislature’s McCleary fix, such as the school levy swap and changes in how earmarked funds are spent.

The information also includes the rules of budgeting and a rundown of cuts made to trim the initial $3 million deficit this year to $1.15 million.

Mayfield said one of his challenges was to condense the complicated financial data on school funding streams and categorized spending into understandable pieces.

The survey will ask participants to prioritize specific programs, strategies and categories, some of which have been funded or supplemented in the past with local levy dollars.

The results will be presented to the board during a workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 6. Board members will then set their own priorities on how to close the gap.

District administrators will use the board’s guidelines to create budget adjustment proposals.

Superintendent Brian Flones said all of the budget decisions have impacts. Overall, 83 percent of the district’s budget is staffing. The other 17 percent is operating costs.

If we absorb positions, it may mean one school is on a three track rather than a four track. We may have to live with that for a year. Those are the things we’ll be talking about,” he said.

The board will review the proposals at its Feb. 12 meeting and is expected to take action that evening after plenty of discussion.

No matter what we decide, there will be ripple effects,” Board President Sunny Hemphill said. “There will be good ripples, bad ripples and unintended consequences. I want us to be mindful of that. None of it is easy or obvious. … These are not decisions we want to make, but it is our job. We need to own that.”

Reach Nevonne McDaniels at 509-664-7151 or .