[LCSD] Budget Done….

From the Lebanon Express:

The Lebanon Community School Board Budget Committee approved an amended budget for 2009-10 at its June 4 meeting. The decision followed four weeks of discussion.

This is good.  This I am not so sure of:

The budget as approved contained these changes from the original written by the administration:

• A $213,829 transfer into the textbook fund, which would help pay for new math books for fourth and fifth grades.

Retired teacher Lynden Brown objected.

“At this point in budget crunch time, people who touch children are more important than books,” she said from the audience.

“This money is not guaranteed money,” responded Jan Zarate, director of student achievement. “If we put it into textbooks, and did not have it, we would not have to lay anyone off.”

There is a point at which textbooks have to be replaced.  I agree that as a general rule, people come first, but there is a balance.  What would the point of employing teachers be if they had no room to teach in nor books to teach with, for example?  I think allocating money they may not get is a good strategy.

Back to good:

Committee members initially stipulated the staff add-backs include a media assistant, five school assistants and a music teacher, but Zarate asked, “Please allow the principals the professional responsibility to decide what their staff looks like.”

In the end, the committee decided to allow building principals to determine the specifics of personnel add-backs.

I am glad to see the Budget Committee was persuaded not to micromanage at the school level, though in some ways I think it would have been OK if they had pushed district-wide numbers for things like media assistants and left it up to the admin staff to allocate.

All of that, however, is kind of dwarfed by this:

Committee member Ginger Allen wanted a guarantee if the tax increases don’t happen, athletics would still get its money.

This raises a couple of questions:

1.  Did anyone object to the LHS Athletic Director’s wife lobbying for more athletic funding as a conflict of interest?  Should they have?  I think so – and I think the Express DEFINITELY should have noted the relationship in the news story.  It is very much relevant.  Minor journalism fail on that one.

2.  How do the proposed cuts to athletics compare to proposed cuts to other programs, such as music?  Disclaimer:  I am aware that athletics helps many students stay in school.  I am not disputing that (I would add that it also has some other, less awesome effects, but that’s another post).  That said, I think it’s clear that other extracurriculars, like music, can do the same thing for a different group of people.  From this perspective, athletics should not be privileged over other forms of activities, especially not just because Ginger Allen is married to the AD and/or is really good friends with former LHS football standout Bo Yates.  Neither are good reasons to fund athletics, especially to the detriment of other things.  So:  How do the funding cuts and budget allocations compare across extracurriculars?

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24 Comments on “[LCSD] Budget Done….”

  1. anonymous Says:

    I know that the figure presented by Mrs. Allen and Mr. Yates claimed there was a 30% program cut before the school board budget committee directed the superintendent to restore funding. I wonder about that figure….

    There was a 30% cut in general fund support, but how much of a program cut was that really? If you looked at all program revenue, including gate receipts, fees, donations, grants, volunteer time, district paid field and court maintenance, transportation, and any other resources, what would the percentage be?

    I also believe that sports programs are valuable but this shell game, well I hope that the student athletes are not watching the politics and ethics example here.

    The budget proposal published by the district contained great detail about each program’s expenses, right down to postage. The athletics program showed no detail at all. Making that information public might be a good start.

  2. Dennis Says:

    anon, I might differ with you in one regard: I am not sure how much the fact that athletics can bring in revenue should be held against it. I’m open to arguments otherwise, but my initial reaction is that what should be compared is allocated dollars. My guess is that even this was not equal, however.

  3. Russ Says:

    A good portion of the committee felt the same way. We also felt that since not all the money was guaranteed, that the first part goes to athletics. Ms. Allen was wanting to know how that would be noted. The restored money to athletics will bring them up to the equivalent of a 15% cut like everyone else. Now, obviously the entire committee didn’t feel that way, but it seemed easily the majority.

    It all comes down to statistics and funding. Obviously money added to one program has to come from another program. The general program cut was around 15%. Athletics was closer to 33%. More than other programs. Also, wherever you cut, it affects people. The propsed cuts in athletics came from the minimal equipment fund and from coaches, so it would be people either way. Now you may argue that we lost 3/5 music teachers, so they took a bigger percentage cut. The problem is, there is no “music” category. The building administrators were told they were getting cuts, all averaging around 15%, so they had a say in what was cut. Several chose to let the cuts come from music. That was their choice, and it is hard to fault them for that. So that gives the perception of a larger than expected music cut. It is funny that anonymous notes gate receipts in the athletic funding. The administration raised the expected gate receipts a lot higher than is actually likely to happen also, which means the cuts could be higher if those gate receipts don’t come in as budgeted. Technically, I think administration, as a category, took the overall biggest cut.

    I also have a problem with the conflict of interest idea. Yes, the paper probably should have put it in, but as I understand state law and public meeting law, it is only a true conflict if only that person and that person’s family is positively impacted. If that person or family is part of a large group positively impacted, it is not a conflict of interest. If I had a family member as a teacher in the union, I can still bargain with the union because the contract affects the entire class my family member belongs. It is not a conflict of interest. Josh Wineteer arguing for the charter school was not a conflict of interest because his kids were involved. They are members of a “class” and therefore all would benefit in that class, not just Josh’s child.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    In Charles Murray’s book, Real Education, he points out the following:

    As of 2005, the Department of Labor estimated that

    12,230 Americans made their living as athletes. There are many more people working as athletic coaches, but their bodily-kinesthetic ability is not nearly as important as their teaching skills.

    16,240 as dancers

    50,410 people made their living as musicians and singers, and 8,610 as music directors and composers. As in the case of athletic coaches, music teachers need good musical ability, but teaching skills are crucial.

  5. anonymous Says:

    Does a report exist that would fully account for athletic and student funds? If so, then it can be requested at the district office. If not, then is anybody supervising?

  6. anonymous Says:

    How many students were injured in the performing arts programs? Athletics?

  7. anonymous Says:

    Did the budget committee also decide that it would save money in the long run to avoid legal fees generated by Ed Sansom if he were moved to Lacomb? Is this the reason he is staying at Seven Oak? Unfortunately Seven Oak students and staff will have to endure another year of administrative ineptitude.

  8. Dennis Says:

    Anon, I had not heard that news about Sansom. Interesting.

    Other Anon, I am not sure how injuries are relevant in deciding what to fund….

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Russ- I disagree with your definition of “conflict of interest,” regarding Ginger Allen and Athletics.
    1)If Rob Allen is the Athletic Director,
    2)If his Wife, Ginger Allen is on the Budget Committe, which has power over how much money his department is allocated,
    3)If She uses her position to lobby for increased or sustained funding for athletics
    4)It follows that this is a conflict of interest.

    It is obvious that the WIFE of the Athletic Director using her position of power to make demands for more money for his department is unethical, if not illegal.
    It does not matter that there is a class of people who may also benefit, she is still lobbying on behalf of her Husband and Friend, Mr.Yates.
    If I am a legislator, and I sit on Joint Ways and Means committe, and my spouse is the Athletic Director of, say, a regional State University, and my close friend is the President of that School, and I use my position to lobby for sustained athletic funding in the midst of budget cuts for that department at that school (this is not exactly how the budget process works at the OUS level, but for the sake of argument we’ll go with it), that would be a conflict of interest, and would definitely be noted in the media, if not called out by other committee members for being a conflict.

  10. anonymous Says:

    I think the appearance of a conflict of interest would make it prudent, if not ethical, for Mrs. Allen to at least make sure all others aware of it.

    As a wife of someone who is not only positively affected by the budget but potentially negatively affected as well, more work/less help/less pay, it definitely falls in the conflict-of-interest category. To say because the husband and friend are part of a “class” doesn’t excuse the parties involved from doing everything possible to be as transparent as possible.
    If this were say Jim Robinson’s wife and he was the athletic director, and a very good friend of their family was also affected by her proposals and votes, you can bet your bottom dollar THAT would have been front page news and the entire committee would have screamed if that hadn’t been noted for the record and the person involved excused from those particular votes.
    To say, “of course I am biased, but I would like to see the athletic department retain or regain their funding and here are the reasons why beyond my personal ones…” would be reasonable.
    For the record to note the relationships/conflict and for the paper to print that is also reasonable.

  11. anonymous Says:

    anonymous @ June 14, 2009 at 6:27 pm
    mentioned injuries–and Dennis you asked about that–I would say it is because injuries would come out of insurance and make the program more expensive than taking the violin or being a member of the choir.

  12. anonymous Says:

    Russ said if he had a family member as part of a union he could still participate in union negotiations.
    True–but it should still be officially stated that he has an interest in the family member getting the best deal possible because he would be personally affected (and whose interest is he–or anyone– most attached to; his family member or the School District???).
    And he might not HAVE to legally excuse himself, but he certainly COULD ethically excuse himself.
    At the least he should note the relationship before he commented or voted.

  13. anonymous Says:

    Russ stated that the athletic department took a 33% hit as opposed to 15% elsewhere.
    My questions are:
    1) How many coaches and other staff does the department have altogether?
    2) How many were cut?
    3) What other cuts were made in that department?
    4 Where is the 33% he is talking about?
    5) Also why ISN’T there detail on that department’s budget; on their income; on their spending?

    Those making the budget decisions need to exhibit as much concern for good sportsmanship as they exhibit zealousness for the institution of the athletic department.
    I like athletics.
    I also like ethics.
    Good sportsmanship is as much about the one as the other.

  14. Dennis Says:

    At this point I want to chime in and say that I appreciate all the conversation that this post has sparked and I am very appreciative that it has not devolved into badmouthing individuals, so thank you all for that. And please – keep it going. It’s a good discussion on an important issue, especially in a town the size of Lebanon, where the pool of committed volunteers is small, so potential conflicts are going to arise more often.

    By the way, I see this discussion as a way to talk bout the best practices involved in conflict-of-interest cases. Did I mention I like this stuff?

  15. Russ Says:

    OK, I have lost track of the anonymous people, so here it goes.

    When I refer to conflicts of interest, I am referring to Board policy, which reflects state law. Like it or not, that is what I base my decisions on. Please refer to Board policy BBFA on ethics and conflicts of interest. I am not sure why people have such concern about the role of Ginger Allen. She was ONE of about twenty plus votes on the committee. I was by far more vocal about athletics than she was, and I was one who did not participate in sports in school. The budget then has to be approved by the Board tomorrow night. She will not get a vote then. Her influence on the committee was minimal. And I think most, if not all of the committee knew of her relationship with the athletic director.

    And I would be willing to bet that the presidents of the universities ARE friends with someone from the Ways and Means Committee. I would be concerned if the person representing my university wasn’t lobbying VERY strongly for my school!

    There was a detailed budget including positions presented to the committee about athletics. It was a rough draft as they were not sure of the actual funding level. This included staff and supplies. It also showed what programs and positions would have been cut from the dept. I got the 33% by taking how much they were budgeted this year as compared to how much they were budgeted last year. It came to a roughly 33% cut. Probably would be more than that as the district artificially raised the revenues from gate receipts which goes to the revenue side of athletics. It also doesn’t take into consideration the voluntary pay cut the coaches took last year to use more money for supplies. I know lots of our good instructors and coaches use their own money for supplies, but few give up permanent pay for it. And I don’t think we were being zealous for athletics. I think most of us expected them to take a cut also, we just felt it should be proportionate to other areas.

    Not everyone will be happy with the budget. I would have like to have had more money also. I also understand that everyone has different view points on what is the most important areas to fund. We all read the inputs offered by staff, parents, community, etc. It is always easy to fund categories when we get extra money from the state. There is no way everyone is going to be happy when we have to make cuts.

    And the budget committee has NO input as far as specific individuals and their positions. Administration moves are done by the superintendent.

    Ethics always come into play when it comes to money and positions. As I read and understand Board policy, I don’t believe any wrong doing occured. I do wish more people would come to the meetings to see what happens. Had some of the anonymous people above been at the budget meetings, some of their questions may have already been answered. We had public comment sections at each meeting with very few (if any) patrons making any comments. That would be a good time to make opinions known also.

    Thanks for the discussion, I am learning a lot! And remember, I DO NOT speak for the Board or the budget committee. These are my opinions and interpretations of decisions made.

  16. Dennis Says:

    Can I just say that russ’s latest comment is a perfect example of how to engage with the community as a board member as well as argue about principles and not people? I can? Consider it said.

  17. anonymous Says:

    I think the budget has been discussed in great detail, and I agree with Dennis that commenters have been polite, thought-provoking and civil. I’m now interested in anonymous from June 14, 7:45pm regarding Seven Oak leadership – thought Mrs. Meckley was being transferred to Seven Oak?

  18. Another Anon Says:

    Personally, I was shocked that the biases on the budget committee were not brought to light or called out during the meetings. It was very apparent what was going on. However, I don’t believe it had much influence on the final outcome of the approved budget. The committee was made up of a good mix of members. In general, I’m pretty sick and tired of the small-town politics played by the Lebanon elite and am ready to move my family from here at this point. Our recent visit to The Strawberry Festival grounds solidified that thought. If you went, you will know what I mean by this.

  19. Lebanon citizen Says:

    Another anon-please explain what bothered you about the Strawberry Festival grounds, I must be blind.

  20. Susan Says:

    School policy and state law may have dictate that you “can” do certain things, but “should” you if you know that a potential conflict might be perceived by others.

    I do think that Russ is right. There were many on the budget committee who felt the same way. Russ was a huge advocate, so it was never just one person. The particular person we are referring to takes the spotlight because of the question of a potential “conflict”.

    As strongly as I feel concerning athletics (all of my children have been involved in every sport offered), I am just as passionate about the “arts”, therefore I place equal amount of importance on the fact that within our school district there could be the next John Waterhouse, John Steinbeck, or Sarah McKennitt.

    When cuts are made to a school district, I can only imagine how difficult the task of deciding what to cut and how much to cut must be.

    Another Anon – It is interesting how I have found a certain people in the area want to bring a completely different definition than what is known to me concerning the word “elite”.

    Every time the word “elite” has been used on this and another blog by people calling themselves anonymous, those elite people are usually community members who have become involved. They have dedicated their time and energy to giving back to the community and get nothing of personal value in return.

    To all those classified as the “elite”, I thank you, and my family thanks you.

  21. Another Anon Says:

    I will admit that “elite” is probably the wrong word. I really do appreciate those who will get involved, especially when it comes to working in the schools, working with the school board, and serving on local committees. I just think that some people are allowed privileges that others are not based on their social status. Lebanon is a pretty diverse community (socially) and it is a shame to only see one sect represented and making decisions with no one questioning their authority. That’s all I meant. As for the Festival comment, I was pretty appalled at the behavior I witnessed. I saw fist fights, parents yelling at children, people holding babies while sucking down cigarettes, drinking in the parking lot, etc. I know it takes a lot of effort from the volunteers to put the festival on, but the community it attracted was really unappealing. It really bothered me — enough to make me reconsider living here. Perhaps I just happened to pop in at the wrong block of time, but I don’t think so.

  22. anonymous Says:

    Elitism, conflict of interest, Seven Oak principal decision, value of athletics, budget committee role, good blogging says that some people should make a new post and pursue these discussions separately.

  23. Dennis Says:

    Anon – maybe that someone should be you; I am always open to the idea of guest posts, even anonymous ones, and I don’t have the time for blogging a whole lot right now. My email address is in the upper-right corner; you can always send things to it.

  24. Susan Says:

    Another Anon – Thank you for your previous statement.

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