Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Change isn't always easy, Peter Remy told his fellow Education Fund Board members Wednesday.
And it wasn't.
The Fund Board allocated its projected $2 million budget for the 2004-05 school year at its meeting Wednesday night, and a new idea created quite a stir within the 13-member group.
Remy, with the support of other Fund Board members, proposed the group simply allocate its budget in accordance with the funding requests of all three Fund Board commissions. Those commissions -- Technology, Educational Excellence and Capital -- have requested spending nearly $1.85 million in half-cent sales tax revenue for programs for the Steamboat Springs School District. Those requests include $399,000 for small class sizes, $328,000 for content standards staff and teacher training and $96,000 for computer replacement at district schools.
The $1.85 million in requests, plus an additional $200,000 for administrative costs, a grants writer and an annual contingency reserve, about equals the $2.045 million the Fund Board projects it will have to spend during the 2004-05 school year.
"We can approve everything we've requested, and we've got projected funds to cover it," Fund Board member Tom Ptach said, adding that sales tax projections historically are conservative.
Remy's proposal was approved by the Fund Board, but its members stressed that allocating money to the commissions doesn't mean a commission's requests were approved for funding. All individual funding requests must be approved by the Fund Board and accepted as a gift by the School Board.
Wednesday's budget allocation process, which lasted less than two hours, was vastly different from the process used last year when Fund Board members met for nearly five hours before allocating money to each commission.
The simplicity of this year's allocation -- made possible only because the total requests from all three commissions barely exceeded projected Fund Board revenue -- made some Fund Board members uneasy. Last year, commission requests easily surpassed the amount of money the Fund Board had to spend, resulting in considerable discussion before each commission was allocated a share of the sales-tax revenue.
Pat Gleason said he was concerned that all funding requests would be rubber stamped when they come before the Fund Board for final approval.
"Just because the money is available, is (spending) it the best thing to do?" Gleason asked. "I think we need to make sure that if this motion goes through ... that the items aren't cast in stone."
There will be the opportunity to ask questions and vote against a request when it comes before the board for second reading, Fund Board member Norm Weaver said.
"What's to be decided tonight is an overall allocation," Weaver said. "There's still a check and a balance available after this process."
Several Fund Board members said the group needs to trust the expertise of the commissions that evaluate, vote on and prioritize each request before bringing it to the Fund Board for approval.
"Change is sometimes hard," Remy said. "My goal when I came on the Fund Board ... was to hopefully convince the Fund Board that we should give the commissions more credit, more authority, and we should trust them more."
Wednesday's meeting culminated the months-long budget allocation process for the Fund Board, which oversees revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax for education. The Fund Board's three commissions bring forth funding requests for school district programs such as teachers to reduce class sizes, computer software and building improvements. Those requests must be approved by the Fund Board on second reading before they can be offered to the School Board as a gift. Commissions will begin asking the Fund Board for final approval on specific funding requests at its April meeting.
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