Monday, February 14, 2011

Budget Workshop Recap, Shorter and Possibly More Coherent

Given how rambling my weekend posts were (I'm going to invoke the sick kid excuse again for my wordiness), here's a quick(er) recap of the cuts recommended at the budget workshop.

I didn’t score each change by the board as it went down, so the numbers here are from the handout available at the 2/9/2011 budget workshop.

Total Recommended Cuts in Central Reductions Exercise: 97.15

My rough breakout:
Central Administration: 15.3
Teaching (that'd be Evening School): 2
Administration billed as Teaching (coaches, SpEd consulting teachers & coaches): 8.5
Teaching Support (I counted athletics in here, though in discussions, that sounded more like an administrative cut): 11.2
Other Support (includes Information Systems -- known in SPS as DoTS -- maintenance, custodian, grounds): 60.75

Numbers Comparison:

Total Employees listed in Central Reductions Exercise: 734.85
Central Administration: 155
Other Support: 507
All other functions (teaching & teaching support, mainly): 72.85

Total Central Administration FTEs (from F-195 budget report, available on OSPI): 245 (i.e. 90 more than in the Central Reductions Exercise)

Total Other Support FTEs (again, F-195 report): 507 (i.e., same as in the Central Reductions Exercise)

So. The “central” reduction exercise was supposed to be about reducing SPS' administrative burden. A dramatic reduction would require a serious restructuring of Central Administration, and as I understood it, the intent was to discuss that.

However. Only 2/3 of Central Administration employees were even listed on the "core FTEs" handout (compared to 100% of Other Support). Given that the positions on the handout were identified as "non-grant funded," one is left to conclude that... the remaining third of Central Administration employees are grant-funded. There are several issues:

  • Over one third of Central Administration is grant-funded?!?! Well... it sure looks like it.
  • Why? In previous budget cycles, administrative positions were “shifted to grant” in order to reduce pressure on baseline funding, not to optimize use of grant funding.
  • It looks like SPS spends at least 10% of its ~$90 milllllllion dollars in grant funds on Central Administration – and that’s not including professional development coaches, who are billed to Teaching (and supposedly most of them are “grant funded” too).

Central Administration cannot be effectively restructured when over 1/3rd of the organization is conveniently omitted from the exercise. Cuts are about reducing total expenses, not just those with certain revenue sources. Presumably in most cases if a grant-funded positions is cut, a baseline position could be shifted to that grant instead. Or – and this is really wacky – that grant money could be spent on students, which is usually the intent of grant money, anyway. You know, to help the keeeeeds.

In order to effectively reduce expenditure, all expenditures must be considered. If Stumpy and I were cutting back on household expenses, I wouldn’t exclude my shoe budget because I fund it from our tax refund (I don’t. It’s an example.) and argue that because it came from a different funding bucket it couldn’t be part of household expense reduction. That would be… ludicrous. Ludicrous is the word I’m looking for. SPS’ position is all the more absurd because, as I've pointed out, many "grant-funded" positions come from one-off issues in previous budget cycles, not careful planning and structuring.

When basic school and student funding is on the chopping block – and it is, since WSS cuts are being considered – then everything else needs to be up there as well. And if it's not, saying "it's grant-funded" isn't enough. There needs to be detailed transparency justifying the protection of that much administrative expense.

Should the board consider custodial and maintenance expenses? Absolutely. But they should also be considering every penny spent downtown, too, instead of taking the easy way out and padding "central" cuts by scything down large numbers of maintenance, custodial and grounds staff.

Cuts have nothing to do with how hard people work downtown. They have nothing to do with the quality of their work (although I do have some opinions on that). It has to do with reducing over $30 million in expenditures. Everything has to be considered.

Right now, with recommended cuts to Central Administration coming in at about 6% of the segment, it really doesn't look that way. Other Support will have 4x more FTEs cut than Central Administration and be cut by 12%. Hmmm.

So, okay, it’s a recap plentifully-seasoned with opinion, but hopefully that explains it without too much shoe talk.


sick of it all said...


I've been visiting for some time now but this is the first time I've seen the latest "nickname": "Stumpy"? Really dude?


You are something else, dude.

Anonymous said...

DC hired an independent auditor to go through its budget and recommend places to cut. Perhaps we should follow DC's example,

in this case.

Scrawny Kayaker said...

Voluntarily hire an independent auditor? Yah, and maybe avian swine will emerge from my rotunda...

That would be an excellent strategy if the district honestly wanted to reduce central administrative costs, although you'd think competent managers could kinda do the same thing without outsourcing.

Meg said...

sick of it all - after he popped his Achilles tendon and had to stump around in a boot, I started calling him Stumpy. I suppose if I'm working on being nicer, I should reconsider the nickname.


Anon- uh, well... now that I've come back from vacation, my magic 8 ball tells me that we're going to be seeing allkindza auditing and monitoring goin' on.

scrawny kayaker - you might want to consider replacing that bet...
And yes. The thing is about using resources wisely is that it takes managerial effort and follow-through, something SPS has very clearly had little of, even when there have been all kinds of red flags that effort and follow-through are required.