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We are one week away from the School Board finalizing their budget to be submitted to Mayor Stoney and after several work sessions, they are discussing changing their approach. Historically, the Superintendent has presented his estimate of needs, the School Board refines the budget and submits it with what they want to the Mayor, then the Mayor’s Office puts together his budget and submits it to City Council. This is the point when the public gets outraged and gets involved when school funding gets cut. However, this year, the new School Board is contemplating a change in direction. In the recent School Board Budget Work Session, council discussed that they planned to submit a budget of what they think Mayor Stoney would approve. So instead of asking for everything the school district needs, even if it is significantly over budget, the School Board will try to trim down the budget to a level they think the mayor will approve.
This change in direction seems to have come from the Education compact put in place to formalize the co-operation among the Mayor’s administration, city council, and school board to work on improving RPS. The expanded cooperation means there have been more collaborative discussions than previous years to make the process efficient and to ensure all stakeholders are looped in on the same page. Based on the discussion in the work session, Mayor Stoney and his administration have already told the school board how much additional funding above last year’s funding will be approved. So instead of working to submit the ideal budget for the district, they are working to trim the budget down to the number close to what the Mayor has already communicated.
With the budget session happening next week, this does not leave a lot of time for the public to find out about the change of direction in budget discussions when the bulk of the cuts will happen over the next week prior to the administration receiving the budget. If you are someone who has a vested interest in the budget or budget process but were waiting for the budget to go to the city administration, now is the time to jump in the mix.
Personally, I have concerns about how this will play out especially without proper communication to the public about the change of direction on such short notice. If you weren’t at council for the December 2016 meeting, you may want to check out Council’s comments responding to the Police Department requesting additional funding outside of budget season. It starts in this video around 1 hour and 50 minutes. If you were at the work session, would love to hear your opinion in the comments or email us at email@example.com