APS – How Many “Tough” Budget Decisions To-Date? In a Word – None!

The revised proposal for the FY14 Budget presents $22.5 million in expenditure reductions from the original proposal (see previous post). Let’s examine the components of the $22.5 million in reductions and find where the “tough” decisions were made. And remember, total spending in the FY14 Budget is still $12.6 million higher than in FY13.

The major components of the changes in the revised FY14 Budget are shown in the Chart below:

APS FY14 Tough Decisions 060213

As noted in an earlier post, the increase for teacher salaries and the district-wide bonus were never even seriously considered from the beginning. The additional $11.6 million in cuts, except for the Vacancy Management issue, were substantially due to the initial budgets being overstated or revised given new information and better planning. As such, the reductions were not due to “tough” budget cut decisions; they simply arose due to a better assessment of the anticipated cost and slightly better cost control measures.

The only item that might be considered a “tough” budget cut is the $5.9 million in Vacancy Management. However, I would suggest that this is simply “lazy” budgeting. The reductions due to Vacancy Management are the result of the Administration’s commitment to delay replacing positions that become vacant or to delay filing currently vacant positions. In essence, the Administration is saying that the system can perform adequately even though some positions remain unfilled during portions of the year. As I note above, this is “lazy” budgeting and effectively allows for random resignations during the year to dictate cost savings. However, if the Administration recognized the absurdity of their position – “We can do without some of the staff during the year, but we don’t know which ones or when” – they would do the “tough” budgeting  now. The result of “tough” budget decisions would be to eliminate the excess resources now versus at some undetermined time in the future. By doing so, the cost savings would likely be well above $5.9 million currently in the Budget.

In summary, no “tough” budget decisions have been made to date – just “easy” or “lazy” ones. Time is short – time to get the lead out and drive a budget that is based on cost efficiency in the administrative departments, resource intensive in the instruction departments and which ultimately supports the mandate of educating our children.

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