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Archive for Sunday, August 18, 2013

Editorial: Public process

The budget process followed by the Lawrence school district does little to accommodate public scrutiny and comment.

August 18, 2013

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The Lawrence school district’s website lists three major goals for the district’s board and administration: excellence, equity and engagement.

The district may be doing fine on the first two goals, but it has a ways to go in the third goal to “develop a learning community of school, family and community partnerships …”

Engaging the community is a two-way street, and the way the district communicated with the public in recent budget deliberations is a continuing cause for concern.

No details about the district budget were revealed before the night that school board members were asked to approve the publication of a budget that set a maximum spending level for the coming year. A few more details were released and posted on the district’s website before a public hearing scheduled as part of the Aug. 12 board meeting. But a large installment of budget details wasn’t delivered until after that public hearing was over — when taxpayers who are funding that budget had no further opportunity for comment.

The public hearing didn’t exactly draw a crowd, but one district patron did come to the meeting with a question. He thought his question might be answered by the budget presentation so he asked if he could wait to hear that presentation before addressing the board. That wouldn’t be possible, he was told, because the public hearing on the budget was at the beginning of the agenda and the budget presentation to the board was at the end — after public comment was closed.

The man asked his question and got an answer, but we have no idea whether the detailed budget report the board received later in the meeting raised any other questions in the mind of this patron or any other district taxpayer. It didn’t really matter; the public hearing was over, and there was no further opportunity for questions.

The way the Lawrence district handled the budget process apparently is legal and not unique among Kansas school districts. However, it leaves the impression that the district isn’t really interested in engaging the public by revealing information and answering questions about budget details.

Lawrence district officials may think their patrons aren’t interested in all those budget details, but local taxpayers — not to mention state legislators — need to have confidence that school districts are using their tax dollars wisely and frugally. We assume the Lawrence district has nothing to hide, but the current process for sharing budget information leaves much to be desired.

Comments

Richard Heckler 8 months, 1 week ago

Then watch on TV to learn more. Or go to the meetings.

I've learned plenty about the budget and the new Blended Learning approach in addition to some other matters which were not necessarily on my mind attending meetings.

This editorial was rather vague and the LJW coverage in the paper leaves out a lot of what is discussed.

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Richard Heckler 8 months, 1 week ago

The new board is user friendly which Is appreciated.

Want a good idea of where the tax might go? Ask for a copy of the budget which is thick and browse through it.

Got questions for the USD BOE:

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oneeye_wilbur 8 months, 1 week ago

A good start for the district is that ALL USD 497 employees live in the district. Put your wages back into the pot.

What's the deal? Lawrence is good enough to take money from, but not good enough to live in?

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oneeye_wilbur 8 months, 1 week ago

Irene, there. Isnot enough state taxes to pay $150,000.

Where doesallof the local taxes paid go?

Ontop of that, Irene,where does the amount from local property taxes to the state go?

It is a pittance of one's local taxbill.

Why isn't the school board breaking down income/expenses.thepublic is not smart enough.

Face it, the school district is spend happy, the teachers and patents want more and ore, for what?

Don't tell me the teachers pay taxes, yes with other's money and what earn is farmlrethanthey pay into the pot.

What's with thismumbo jumbo stuff,excellence,equality and some other fancy sounding word.

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Cauac 8 months, 1 week ago

Sorry, the guy asked his question after the budget presentation. And he got an answer. So, no not after public comment was closed. Watching these meetings on TV is not exciting, but if the editorial writer cares enough to write an editorial, then maybe he or she should watch and, I don't know, become informed. Otherwise, he or she is no more informed than broken record wilbur.

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oneeye_wilbur 8 months, 1 week ago

The district is broken and their only fix is to spend, spend , spend. Again, 150 homes valued at $200,000 it takes to pay ONE employee. Go figure that one Irene, please explain the math on that one. Thank you kindly, yours wilbur. And retirees are moving here? I think not!

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buffalo63 8 months, 1 week ago

Not nefarious, but doing nothing to educate the taxpayers as to how their money is or isn't spent. Having negotiated with other districts, the same thing occurs. They set a budget to "spend" money for various accounts and at the end of the year, while the account is "spent", in actuality the money has been moved to other places for items unrelated to the original account. Also reasons for $17 M surpluses.

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IreneAdler84 8 months, 1 week ago

You can always stay after the meeting and ask a question. Or, you can call a board member. Their numbers are published in this newspaper.

I don't know if you watched the board meeting on Channel 6, but the guy's question didn't really pertain to the budget -something about FTEs. And, the superintendent then answered the question. This has been the way that the board has organized their meetings for a while. I am not sure why the LJW has suddenly decided that there is something nefarious about the order of the meeting agenda.

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IreneAdler84 8 months, 1 week ago

" We have no idea whether the detailed budget. . . . Raised any other questions in the mind of this patron or any other district taxpayer."

Nor do we have any idea whether monkeys then flew out of his butt. Seriously. I know this is an opinion piece, but it is the height of sloppy journalism to bring up an unnamed person and speculate about what he MIGHT have thought.

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Steven Gaudreau 8 months, 1 week ago

"three major goals for the district’s board and administration: excellence, equity and engagement."
How about the goals being:

  1. Education.
  2. Courage to make decisions by the board with students bests interests involved rather then job security.
  3. Smart allocation of funds.
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Number_1_Grandma 8 months, 1 week ago

Until Lawrencians start saying NO instead of YES why should the school board change the way it does business. Every bond issue that comes up, citizens vote 'yes'. So why does school board need 'public comment' again ?

LJW could go along way towards getting transparency from school board and superintendent Doll. An occasional shot over the bow from LJW is not going to make school board change the way they do business. Ask real questions of board and Mr. Doll on reorganizing, hiring of top heavy staff. Ask more question ( write more articles ) detailing lack of transparency from Doll and the board. Otherwise, why does school board need to change the way the operate again ???

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oneeye_wilbur 8 months, 1 week ago

Those truly interested have given up! There is no hope for USD 497 when it takes the equivalent of 150 $200,000 homes to pay one employee, the Superintendent for example.

The Journal World will not tackle the school board head on.

The district is broken

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