Bluewater School Board
2009-10 Budget Draft Amended June 1
Preface and OP ED: The Saugeen and Kincardine Times have
been covering the Bluewater School Board and Administration difficulties
for over a year. (See our extensive Education
section, which is the most to be found anywhere) The Board
is getting down to looking at the budget. Many of the systemic
difficulties associated with Bluewater flow from an out of control
financial condition and a debt that runs to over $105,000,000 if paid to
The budget is not an issue that can be looked at once or twice a year. It should be the first order of business for EVERY school board meeting. That is, preparing for a new budget and monitoring the performance to budget of the current administration. The Trustees should ask for changes in the presentation so that they can understand the issues. The last meeting showed great frustration on their part because they could not put the figures in context.
This is NOT the fault of the financial people in Chesley who accumulate and present the numbers gathered from department heads and the administration. It is the fault of the Trustees for not asking every month for more understandable presentations. Every good board does that. Over time they get what they want and the administration will be better for it.
They ask the CFO to speak first. They ask for changes in the presentation to highlight problems and serve as early warnings of trouble. The budget approval is no the end, it is the beginning of a monitoring process You can't just do that once a year. Recently there was a rushed presentation consisting of 78 (we counted them) slides on the budget in 25 minutes with no questions from the Trustees in open session. The most recent meeting there were lots of questions. A wake up call has been sounded due to parents, teachers and the press. All of a sudden they have realized that the 'cat is out of the bag'.
Whose fault is all this? It really does not matter. It appears to be the result of inexperience of educators with huge budgets to juggle. This is a daunting task for corporate giants, let alone people not trained in the subtle art of budget management.
Amalgamation has created and exacerbated the educational problem. Teachers, Trustees and Parents like to concentrate on the educational offering as though there was a flowing river of money available for the taking, if only they could figure out how to tap it and where to spend it. Therefore, when all else fails, they build a new administration building.
Recently a gifted educator told the Saugeen and Kincardine Times that we have to remember that Educators are social scientists with not much emphasis on the science part. He said that "they like to use numbers to justify programs either killing or creating them, but the numbers are usually flawed" His advice was to "put the point at the end of the arrow" .... that is, spend your money where the teachers meet the students and forget the social studies that they use to justify cutting or increasing pet programs with expensive consultants. Above all else avoid adding the administrative costs.
One thing to keep in mind is that School Boards don't really have competition like a corporation. They worry about demographics and declining enrollment, but those are minor worries compared to a corporation. After all school boards have been in existence for well over a 100 years and should have good methods developed and certainly financial controls.
2009-10 Draft 2 Budget June 1, 2009
* There is something wrong with the number $3,700,000 at the time of the Board meeting, but this should be corrected in the final budget
Budget Facts as presented by the administration.
The first of these is the first commandment of all educators. The second might refer to either the learning gap or the budget gap or both. Public confidence is very low at present.
04/06/2009 09:44 PM
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