The first meeting to consider the 2013-14 Jackson County School District 9 budget covered basics: swearing in two new Budget Committee members (Nita Lundberg and Hart Wilson); election of chairman (Mike Hussey) and Vice Chairman (Hart Wilson); and Operation Manager Scott Whitman’s introduction of the proposed budget. Whitman noted, “The Budget Committee is the vehicle that allows the public to participate in the budget process. After receiving the budget message and the proposed budget…the Committee holds meetings to take and consider public comment and to examine and possibly revise the budget document.” The committee doesn’t determine programs directly, change district organizational structure, or deal with personnel matters, but recommends a level of spending and specifies the available revenues.
Superintendent Cynda Rickert presented her budget message, intended to give an overview of the district’s fiscal position for the upcoming school year. She reported that the district is climbing out of the hole created by the 2008 recession, although that climb is not yet over. “The stringent budget plan developed in 2008 has worked and is still working! We will still operate conservatively while keeping our priorities intact.” In spite of those fiscal challenges, students in D9 are benefiting from improved school/student safety (with more improvements coming over the summer), a continued full school year for students and a full work year for employees, reasonable class sizes, and quality teachers. This budget will allow best practices regarding instructional coaches, instructional technology, intervention specialists, and funding of middle school sports. She concluded with a good news/bad news scenario: increased funding as the upside, increased PERS and medical costs as the downside. “Solutions to these challenges are not easily found and continue to be debated on the state and national levels.”
Audience member Brian Saling read a letter regarding his daughter Micaela. She received a presidential award for volunteer involvement, which includes a scholarship—something most college bound students need. He asked the Committee to make sure programs such as SkillsUSA and FFA receive continued support. Sara Pitner urged the Committee to insure a seven-period day.
Whitman broke down the budget documents by categories: overview of enrollment, staffing, employee costs in the general fund; general fund resources; general fund expenditures by function (how the district spends money); general fund expenditures by object (what is being purchased—salaries, benefits, supplies, etc.); breakdown of expenditures by program (elementary, intermediate, high school, support staff, extra student services, various other programs, with salaries, services and costs for each); special revenue funds (Title programs, food, special education); capital project fund; and scholarship funds (donated, non-district monies).
Committee members, Board members and the public now have opportunity to review the proposed budget and contact Whitman for clarification if needed.
The next two public meetings are scheduled for May 1 and May 15, with a hearing on the approved budget on June 12.
By Lynn Leissler
For the Independent