School Board presses for simplicity in budget process

Board will begin discussing 2010 budget in December

Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Juneau School District's budgeting process is looming, and in an effort to make this year's process friendlier than in years past, the Juneau School Board heard recommendations from its Budget Advisory Committee about ways to increase transparency and clarity in that process at its meeting Tuesday.

Budget Advisory Committee Chair Sally Saddler presented several recommendations to allow the board to budget more carefully and clearly, such as:

• clearly outlining assumptions and "base" costs versus discretionary expenditures;

• separating "budget education" from "budget decision-making," with each department in the district presenting its budget to the board in separate staggered presentations throughout the school year;

• finding a system to evaluate budgeted money for whether or not it is having the desired impact;

• having only one advisory group. During last year's process, there were four, and many people expressed frustration.

"It was an arduous process. We didn't have consistent membership," said one budget recommendation advisory group member in comments to the board on Tuesday. "I believe there are good components of the BRAG process but one group is much more workable and better."

The board also discussed having a Finance Committee of the Whole, to include all its board members. The advisory group could factor in as part of that committee.

District Director of Administrative Services David Means presented a sample of how the budget breakdown might look. Board President Mark Choate said the sample was "the first time I've ever looked at something with the district's finances and seen what's going on."

"Sometimes it's a lot of hard work to make something simple," he said.

The board will begin discussing the budget for the 2010 fiscal year in December or January. Means said it is still "way too early to tell" how the budget will look. Last year, the board dealt with an expected budget shortfall of $2 million and voted to cut, among other things, 13 full-time teaching positions to save $1.1 million.

The school district's annual budget is about $70 million.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board also:

• approved its 2009 financial audit, which found no problems;

• heard an update on drug testing, which began Monday;

• heard a student discipline report for all schools and students in the district for 2008-09;

• heard preliminary enrollment numbers for the 2009-10 school year.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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