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With the recent shutdown of the national government, the District had been watching with interest as some of its services and programs are funded with federal dollars. At the monthly Board Budget Development Committee meeting, chair Audrey Cotherman foreshadowed that national budget cuts could force the district to take an intensive look at programs. She encouraged the group to think of what priorities would be when it comes time to put together a balanced budget.
Creating the district’s annual budget is a year-long collaborative process with much of the groundwork laid by the Board Budget Development Committee. Currently in Phase 1: Development Process, the group is gathering detailed information regarding past budgets and analyze how effective certain budget items have been.
This month, the group focused on how much the District spends on travel for professional development for staff and for activities/athletics for students. With the state’s funding model, each school is allotted $13.32 per student for staff professional development. In addition, the District receives grant money for staff who are administering a program or service that receives federal funding. Since 2006, the District has seen a general decline in PD General Funding Expenditures and Grant Funding. Superintendent Steve Hopkins explained this is due to an overall decrease in federal grants, plus the District has learned how to become more effective and efficient with professional development, many times utilizing in-house expertise to train staff. In 2012-13, schools and divisions spent $692,220 while grants paid for $3.6 million in professional development.
Chair Cotherman suggested that the group consider putting more PD dollars at the school level and less at the district level during the budget process. She encouraged employee groups to provide input.
Teachers have opportunities for PD outside the classroom through a program called “Discover”, that is funded by the Natrona County Recreation Board. Time to work on PD remains an issue for classified staff. Other specific PD needs identified by the group included training on common core, academy-based learning, and integrated learning systems.
Employee group representatives were asked to return to their respective groups and determine priorities, while principals should lead that discussion within their buildings. Trustee Howie stated that in her time as an educator, she felt the PD that was offered to her was a waste of her time. Many times it wasn’t relevant to her field. She suggested going straight to the teachers and ask them what they need.
The District also pays for travel to and from trainings and student trips for activities/athletics. While the District gets reimbursed for bus costs and some schools conduct fundraisers to pay for students trips, in 2012-13, the total cost of travel was more than $950,000. Federal grants paid for an additional $348,000.
Next month, the group will continue Phase 1 work by reviewing contracts. The Board Budget Development Committee meets again on Nov. 14, 2013.