On Thursday, September 1, Dr. Casey Wardynski and the board held the first of two Budget Hearings for the Huntsville City Schools proposed 2012 budget. (The second and final one will be tonight at 5:30 after a brief called board meeting.)
During this meeting, he stated to the public and the board that “the budget, again, is a statement of our priorities. It is the alignment of finances of the district with the activities of the district.”
Concerning this, he is absolutely right. Our budget shows our priorities. The question is, what priorities does it actually show?
Consider this slide which is slide 13, “Expenditures by Program – Instruction” from the 2012 Budget Hearing presentation offer by Mr. Spinelli on Thursday:
This is an impressive figure when viewed without context. It’s amazing what a difference context makes.
You’ll notice that there isn’t any data from 2011 or 2010 on this slide. If you want to know where the system’s priorities are, you have to be able to see how the money is being moved around. Especially when there is a limit to the funds available to be moved around. So where are the 2011 numbers.
Luckily enough, I had downloaded them from the Huntsville City Schools website. You can download it here: Budget_Hearing_FY11_9-10-10.pdf. In 2011, Dr. Wheeler’s presentation included the numbers from the previous year. Here’s the matching slide from the 2011 presentation. This was the 2011 proposed expenditures budget for Instruction. (You know, the only reason the system exists.)
So what do you notice there?
For starters, you should notice a sharp downward trend in funds being expended on instruction. From 2010 to 2011, the system cut almost $5 million. In 2012, the budget calls for a cut of $6,222,921. In two years, the instructional budget, again the only reason the system exists, has been cut by just under $11 million dollars.
Let’s look a little closer at these numbers. The total general fund expenditures from 2010 to 2012 has been reduced from $191,014,710 to $176,799,180. In other words, we’ve seen a cut in the general fund of $14,215,530. Of that cut, Instructional Expenditures represented 77% of all the cuts made.
It would seem that one of our priorities in Huntsville City Schools is no longer instruction.
New teachers’ salaries have been cut to the state minimum. Teachers’ raises have been frozen. Teachers are being hired to work part-time temporary positions, and we’re celebrating it.
Mr. Spinelli and Dr. Wardynski were praised for reducing the deficit by $12,169,715 this year. Half, 51%, of those savings are from instructional cuts which total $6,222,921.
We no longer have instruction as a priority in this system.
Just for clarity, let’s look and see if those cuts to instruction have been made equally and fairly. Surely they have, right? Right?
Special Education had a proposed budget of $19,849,256 in 2011. I suspect, but do not know, that this amount includes funds for Gifted Education as well. The proposed budget for 2012 is $14,163,983. This number does not include Gifted Education, so when we include the $2 million budgeted for that, we get $16,351,280.
From 2011 to 2012, Special Education has received a $3.5 million dollar cut. Special Education has received 56% of the cuts made to instruction this year.
No other single group comes close to that. The next largest cut is to Career Technical at 35% which is quite interesting since a significant portion of our 3,000 students with an IEP are often seeking a career technical degree as well.
So, by itself, Special Education is covering 29% of the deficit reduction planned for the year. When you throw in Career Technical, that percentage grows to 46%.
Special Education and Career Technical students are the ones being asked to pay for the mismanagement of our system.
How’s that for a statement of priorities?
One last point.
In 2011, Dr. Wheeler published a breakdown of the General Administrative budget that showed the budgeted amount for the Board, Superintendent, and various other central office positions. Here’s the slide:
In 2012, Mr. Spinelli did not publish a separate slide detailing this information, but he did publish the total administrative costs:
As you can plainly see, the Administrative costs have increased each year over the past three years. Over that period the central office budget has grown by 5%. While Dr. Wardynksi made a point of saying that this budget includes the salaries for positions that have not been filled yet, I bet it doesn’t include the $100,000 were paying Dr. Moore, nor the $114,000 we’re paying Dr. Wheeler, to sit at home.
Instruction has been cut by 10%
A budget is a statement of priorities, Dr. Wardynski. I think we can clearly see where your priorities are. You believe in expanding administrative salaries while balancing the budget on the backs of those who cannot speak for themselves.
As I have asked before, how can you justify this?