Williams: It’s School Budget Time Again

Los Alamos Board of Education

Well it’s that time to begin preparing for the 2015-2016 budget. The Budget Steering committee is beginning to meet in preparations to brief the Board at the February meeting.

So what does this mean to all of you? Two things that I will discuss here, the first is what the process may look like and how you might be involved; the second is a more informative narrative about what this process really is (hint – it’s not a budget!).

So what do you as a community member probably want to know right now? The Board will be putting forth names for the Budget committee at the February meeting. They can put forth names of professional accountants who have a career in this area and/or the names of community members who have a stake in the outcome of the budget process. Both these categories are certainly relevant to this process. So if you want to be a part of this process please contact the School Board members and let them know.

I see the Budget committee has having three potential make ups. I will call them small, medium and large. Small is more easy to manage and maintain the focus, but it runs the risk that we lose the breadth and spectrum of what we should consider. Large can involve much, or all, of the community, but it is difficult to steer and focus. All Budget committees will include two Board members, several (on the order of 3) District Office personnel and community members appointed by the Board.

A small committee would probably compose of the essential personnel listed above along with one candidate proposed by each Board member. This would have a make up of 10-12 people.

I feel a medium size committee might work the best. What I hope to propose at the February meeting is a committee make up of two Board members, something like 3 District Office personnel and 10 additional community members put forth by the Board. Each Board member can elect two members to the committee. One should be someone with the professional breadth to understand budgets, state laws and similar requirements. The second candidate may be an “at large candidate”. Someone who may not have the professional background but has a vested interest in next years budget and is an active member of our school community. This would give a committee on the order of 15-17 people.

The large committee would be similar to the medium committee but we open ALL of the budget committee meetings to the general public. I really don’t see much of a problem with this if the general public is held to public comments only at the beginning and/or end of all meetings. The reasons why this may not be so effective is because not many members of the public will attend and the final meetings will actually be at Board meetings where the public is free to give input, so the general public will always have a chance to voice their opinion on our upcoming budget.

So are we really making a budget now? No, that’s nonsense. We’re not even close to getting our funding projection from the State at this time. This process is a mandate by the State, an exercise to show the State that we can operate next year. It’s a very good exercise, it’s a very good mandate, because this is the time when the Board begins to consider what it’s priorities are for next year and what priorities are important enough that we want to put some money behind them to ensure their success. The end of this process gives our community a good look into what the School District really feels is important as we move forward. That is really why this budget process is so important.

The actual budget is only decided sometime about July 2016 when the last checks are approved and the last Budget Adjustment Requests are finalized. We really won’t know what next years budget will be until the end of next year.

So please provide your input to the Board. This is a very important process since it allows our community to step up and say what they feel should be a priority in our students education. I look forward to engaging all of the community in this process.

I would also like to thank Susan O’Leary and the League of Womens Voters for raising the awareness that the School Board and District needs to make a greater effort to inform the community on our efforts. My blog and this column are a direct result of their efforts.


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