"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Money, Money, Money: Budgets and Bonds

Today, June 21, 2016, is our annual budget hearing at 6:00 pm at the district office in American Fork.  A public hearing will take place for 1) the final budget for 2015-2016 and 2) the proposed budget for 2016-2017.  Most of the time, very few people come to comment on the budget unless there is a tax increase proposed.  But if you have comments about the budget, you can comment at the appropriate time.  If you have comments on other issues, there will be a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, as well.  Here is a link to the budget: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4LZ8teFSo0fNUd1WEVYZzZRekFLQ1JSQ3hQWXU2U1BlSUZj/view

A few things to note:
p. 8: Great Graph on 1) Where the money comes from and 2) How it is spent.  Total federal funding this year is 6.32% ($39 million total federal revenues)
p. 15: General Fund: This is where most of the 'school-related' activities are funded: teachers, principals, etc.
p.23: District Leadership: The board and other district leadership have their association dues paid for by you.  The vast majority of this total amount ($57,999) is for dues for the Board's Utah School Boards' Association. (Note: Only teachers do not have their dues paid for by the taxpayers.)
p. 23: District Leadership Supplies and Materials: This amount is significantly higher than last year because we will be including the Superintendent's discretionary spending fund (for items that arise during the year that only he can approve) here for greater transparency. 
p. 39: Nutrition Services: This is where a huge chunk of our federal revenues come in.  51.74%  ($11.472 million) of our food budget is federal.  Note also, this pays for the free school lunches in the summer, as well.
p. 51: Tax Increment Fund (RDA's): This is the amount of taxation that is being diverted to developers under the RDA sections of state code, to incentivize development in exchange for reduced tax rates to those entities that can successfully lobby us to give them tax breaks.  This is a new requirement from the State Auditor's office.  This year, $15 million is projected to be given back to developers.
p. 57: Alpine self-insures for medical workers' compensation.  This outlines the spending and revenues for that program. 

Non-budget items that may be of interest:
p. 66: Enrollment projections through 2020 (hint: 80,885 students by 2020)
p. 71: Actual employee counts, per department, over the last several years.
p. 73: New employee counts for this year specifically.

Additionally, on June 27 @ 12:00 pm at the District Office, the Board will meet to discuss the various bond projects that we would like to see on the upcoming bond.  The vote on the bond will take place at the August board meeting.  If you have bond projects that you support, want to see included, or want to see removed, please let me (and the rest of the board) know before the 27th.  This is the time to weigh in.  If you wait till August on your opinion of the bond, it will be too late, in all practicality, to influence it.

My personal opinion is we should not include technology infrastructure in the bond.  Most infrastructure for technology has a short 'useful life' and should not be financed over 17 - 20 years.  It was included, in part, because the bond survey indicated a strong preference for increased use of technology, especially from our male respondents. We have put the cart way before the horse in thinking technology is the silver bullet of education. We are not fully aware of the vast implications of so much technology use in our children's lives. 

As an example, here is an article that every parent needs to read. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201508/screentime-is-making-kids-moody-crazy-and-lazy?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost)  The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no more than 2 hours per day of screen time for kids up to age 18.  I think technology can be useful in some circumstances, but it is by no means the end-all, be-all of improving education and our children's lives.  And, in fact, might be harmful, depending, as always, on its use.

And one more about how we are creating children who can't disagree. (http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/02/bill-gates-admits-on-education-tech-we-really-havent-changed-outcomes/) “The digital delivery of teaching materials across Australia has had a powerful normative effect,” he [Dr. John Vallance, Headmaster, Sydney Grammar School] observed. “It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things – the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.”
Please share this information with your friends and neighbors.  We are only 7 board members, and we need your input on how you would like to see our district managed.