Well, it's that time of year again here in Downtown Edison when Super Dr. Richard 'Looking for the Exit Ramp' O'Malley and the Board that Leads from Behind over there on Mythomania Lane get ready to put forth their School Budget for 2016-17. According to the agenda for their March 16th caucus meeting (up on their website now) their public meeting on the latest 'Pot of Money' they call a School Budget will be on May 4, 2016.
Now, when you have a Super that believes that when you (use to) go to the polls to vote on the school budgets that you were just voting on a tax levy number and not the actual budget behind that number, when you can make transfers between accounts pretty much anytime you want and when you fail to disclose to the public the details for the changes in Staffing - which is the single largest expenditure in the school budget, then you really don't have a budget.
All you have is big, fat and bloated 'Pots of Money' you can $pend pretty much anyway you want.
Hence, the 'Staffing Shell Game' - a budget practice that's been going on for as long as I've been looking at their budgets and that includes the Dickinson, Maeroff, Iyer and, hopefully Not Now, the Dr. Frank years. I say hopefully not now since when Dr. Frank actually ran for the board he raised the issue of hiring some 40+ non-budgeted heads and not disclosing it to the public at his Candidates Night.
There are many past posts in this blog on this practice and you can go back and look at not only why it happens but how it happens and how you can actually see it in their public budgets. So, not going to waste your time by rehashing the details, just provide a simple blurb of their state mandated budget requirements and where the Board of Mythomania falls short in disclosing what's going on with their staffing.
To most people, a budget is just a budget - a plan of what you see happening over the period covered and something to measure against when actual activity happens. Now, of course, things change and the numbers originally budgeted may no longer be reflective of reality - that's why there are forecasts to show the changes from what was originally budgeted. The forecast reflects the changes from the budget. The budget stays the same, it doesn't change.
For example, if your 2014-15 budgeted staff was 1,962, then your budget is 1,962 - and if right after the start of the budget year, you added 23.5 non-budgeted staff, then your actual and forecast is now 1,985.50. You added 23.5 new hires that weren't in the budget and everyone can see it.
Now, consider this. The state requires the district to substitute the actuals from July 1 through February 1 of the current budget year for the prior year's budget when preparing the next year's budget. Now there's nothing wrong with that. It's an attempt to have more current numbers to compare against next year's budget. However, unless disclosed, it does allow the activity from July 1 to Feb. 1 to be hidden.
Herein lies the issue with the Board of Mythomania's public school budgets. Using the above numbers, if the school's 2014-15 budget had a staffing of 1,962 and they hired 23.5 non-budgeted staff anytime between Jul 1, 2014 and Feb 1, 2015, then their actual staffing is 1,985.50. When they prepare their 2015-16 school budget, they substitute the 1,985.50 for the budgeted 1,962 for the 2014-15 staffing budget. So, the 23.5 non-budgeted staff added to the payroll disappear when comparing it to the 2015-16 staffing, if not disclosed.
Here's how it's presented and what it looks like for their 2015-16 School Budget:
That's 23.5 additional staff they added to the payroll and didn't disclose to you while asking for an additional 16! Now, maybe it's me, but if they already added 23.5 and you were aware of that, wouldn't that raise some questions as to where that money came from and why then would they need another 16 for 2015-16?
And, if you think that it's not important since they're only adding another 23.5 heads to the payroll, then think again. Here's what it looks like since I've been looking at their school budgets:
Here's the numbers if you don't like charts:
Anyhoo, no one questions the need to be flexible with staffing and changes should be made when necessary but you have to disclose and explain why those changes made were necessary before asking for more. Let's hope Dr. Frank recognizes that there needs to be better reporting and disclosure to the people of Downtown Edison of the Staffing changes - the single largest expenditure in the big, fat and bloated 'Pots of Money' they call school budgets. Or Not.