Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fiscal Responsibility and Rugby

The Belmond-Klemme Community School District has been working very hard in recent years to make financial progress in stabilizing the future for our schools, educators, and students.  The balance is a difficult one as we strive to provide the best possible experiences for ALL and yet maintain a tight rope on the expenditure line.  Some progress has been noted in certain areas, but we clearly have a long way to go and the road ahead does not appear to flatten, straighten, or smooth.

We will continue to be frugal and conscious in our efforts to provide for our students.  That means that we look at all of the expenses we amass at any time with the filter of "what is best for kids" and make appropriate determinations.  Not always does this mean there is an abundance of support for each decision - whether big or small.  In the last few years, there have been difficult decisions made, and some have come with understandably frustrated responses.  I don't anticipate that changing in the future.  At the same time, what is best for kids (and for the BK community) is that we are able to provide a strong education both now and in the future.

This is truly a battle.  Picture a rugby field with two massive teams engaged in a scrum.  By the way, I know very little about rugby, but I love the word "scrum" and the picture of power and grit that it portrays:

On one side:  student needs, government mandates, building improvements and updates, community performances, local support, the educators, school requirements, cost of living, learning opportunities, and technology advancements.

On the other:  negative cash balance, general declining enrollment, property tax, limited or nonexistent allowable growth, income surtax, unencumbered balance, spending authority, categorical funding, and across the board cuts.

For one team (or concept) to make progress, the other has to give ground. 

While it would be great to be able to provide everything that students want, that flies in direct opposition to the fact that we want to maintain or even lower taxes.  Now throw in the whole concept of Iowa's limitation on spending based on the number of students (which was originally effectively created as a method to be more equitable between districts of varying financial resources), and even the concept of constituents and voters willingly increasing taxes to support student learning is met with limitations beyond local control.

Unfortunately, the process in Iowa still appears to involve a lot of "voo-doo magic" to follow the funding stream and balance it all.  At this point, I'm still struggling with all of that and asking lots of questions of those experienced veterans that have so graciously allowed me to do so.



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