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School budget Sheffield’s responsibility, with consent of the board of education

This blog has posted  and discussed here that the elected board of education in RSD205 should have been involved thus far in the entire process of the new 2012 budget development .

Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield chose not to communicate with the elected board of education about the budget development, but instead formed a 2012 budget committee in such a way that the committee was not subject to the Open Meetings Act, even though their private discussions centered on how $404M of our tax dollars could possibly be spent.

The committee met with Cedric Lewis, the financial director and other Sheffield staff members. These meetings were usually held during the day, when some of the board members had to work and were unable to attend, and none of the public was invited, even with 15 years experience in municipal school financing, as I can attest, having been asked to leave the committee’s second meeting by Cedric Lewis and the board’s attorney.

The committee made recommendations, depending on how many are implemented, that could save up to $47M, with revenues up to $4M to balance the $51M deficit forecast for 2012 budget, according to Tuesday’s Print Exclusive in the Rockford Register Star.

One problem is there are vast dollar ranges with the recommendations made by the committee and the reasons why these areas for reduction were suggested over others are unclear, because the discussions were held in secret and these details were not made available in the committee’s PowerPoint presentation.

Without getting into the details of the individual recommendations, the revenue increase could net between $1M – $4M, with cuts in the range from $18M – $47M, a large deviation. Adding the ranges from the lowest revenue with the lowest combinations of cuts is $19M to a high of $51M.

The recommendations were purposefully vague on details such as, “Reduce Health Care Costs,” “Require all staff to contribute to pension plans” and “Consolidate Schools” because, as one member of the committee stated, the board was elected to make these decisions. I agree. But then two designated board members should have been allowed to be part of the entire budget committee process to understand the rationale behind the committee recommendations.

At the next board meeting, Sheffield will offer her suggestions to the school board. So with all these recommendations in their lap, the board is NOW brought in to the process to make the final decisions when they have not been privy to the rationale developed over months of study by the committee.

Will the board have to pick from these recommendations. How could they choose other proposals, not having been part of the committee discussions? Does the board even know if there were other recommendations discarded along the way that they might have selected?

Why didn’t Sheffield’s cabinent and finance director get the board up to speed earlier in the process? Why a 2012 budget committee? What was the reason? Why did the committee meet in secret? There are timelines, dealing with the teacher’s contract, state law, etc. that have to be met and the board is only now being brought into the picture!

Are any of the 2012 budget committee members going to meet with the board and discuss the rationale behind their recommendations? Where is Sheffield’s leadership?

Also, why is it up to the board to give the administration direction on the budget, when they were excluded from the process. The taxpayers pay Sheffield and her immediate cabinent advisors probably close to $1M dollars a year. Taxpayers pay the board nothing.

This is the same shifting of responsibility that was debated when I was on the school board, when the powers that be wanted to shift the blame to the board for the annual deficits, not the people spending the money. It’s Sheffield’s responsibility, with the consent of the board to make the required cuts, not the other way around!

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24 Comments

  1. Denise Cooper

    Dear Ted,
    Thank you for your fine article. I too sat and listened to the committee present their recommendations at the board meeting last Tuesday. If these were the great minds in Rockford business we should be afraid for our future as a city. There was nothing original about the plan. These recommendations have been flying around every school district in the country that has a Broad Academy graduate as a superintendent. The committee did nothing but recycle information from other districts to arrive at their conclusions. There was certainly nothing in their presentation that needed secrecy, so as you suggest, what did they really discuss?

    The committee also suggested that an increase of 1% in attendance translates to $1,000,000 for the district. It seems that the reverse is also true, a reduction of 1% will lead to a $1,000,000 decrease. For every 29 students that leave the district to attend private school, leave the area, or homeschool the city loses the million. Currently, under this leadership, reduction is more likely and is already occurring.

    I am sad to say that my daughter will not be returning to high school in RPS205 if this administration is still in power. Her trampling on the acheiver has become reprehensible and I rufuse to subject my child any longer to this environment of nonlearning.

    I will continue to fight for a stronger public school system in Rockford, but I can’t ask my child to play the role of sacrificial lamb in my endeavors.

    Thank you again for your comments. I hope the city is listening.

  2. Ted- With 4 of the original budget committee members on the steering committee for the Rockford Character School Initiative, an organization that does not necessarily have the best interest of public education as their goal, I have been leery from the beginning.

    When board member Jude Makulec asked how the committee came upon their recommendations, the committee was unable or unwilling to answer.

    It would take 100% of their suggestions to be implemented at the highest percentage provided to eliminate the deficit. While I respect the members of the budget committee individually, the process was flawed and the suggestions made lacked creativity, viability, and do not appear to be in the best interests of our children.

  3. I have to butt in – it has been less than a week since President Obama called for a more civil tone and the democrats start comparing the Republicans to Nazis.

    Nancy’s troops are just a class act

  4. Ted Biondo

    Doug, when you are spending money at $50M more than revenue and 76% of the budget is salaries and benefits, layoffs are the only way to cut that much, because $64M can’t even be touched because of grant status, debt retirement, etc.

    There is no way this reduction will be a help to education or in the best interest of the children, the staff, the community or anything else. Sad that planning for this process and economy wasn’t better done!

  5. Ted Biondo

    Terry, I am reminded of the names Bush was called during his eight years by those now asking for civil debate, yeah right!

    Nancy Pelosi is one of the most hateful, disgustful, vindictive, to hell with the taxpayer attitude people I have ever observed on the national stage, and Harry Reid is a close second!

  6. Nice name-caling Ted, how sad and really just a little pathetic. A grown man or your experience should have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable by now. I guess it is too late for you, but maybe you can serve as an example of the need for some civility in political discussions!

  7. Ted Biondo

    ricardo – I normally welcome bloggers to the site, but in your case, your comment makes no sense – Namecalling??? Where did I call anyone a name in the post? You seem to be in the company of those who mistake facts, that you disagree with, as name calling – Sorry, but the statements in this post are simply the facts. You must have clicked on the wrong post!

    I am always civil in my posts. Just tell me where I name called in this post, anyone?

  8. It is not in your blog, but in your comment (#5). Or maybe calling someone “hateful, disgustful (is that even a word), vindictive” isn’t name calling anymore? Or maybe you spew such venomous words so often you don’t even know when you type them anymore.

    Do you think I care if you welcome me or not, I don’t. And don’t expect me to stop posting because you don’t welcome me or like me comments.

    I would appreciate your response and your apology since I clearly showed your name calling. Once again Ted, grow up and act like an adult!

  9. Ted Biondo

    ricardo, those are adjectives describing the two individual’s behavior to a tee. Pelosi doesn’t care about the taxpayers. I didn’t call them a Nazi like liberals called Bush, or socialists dictators, or blame the right for causing that poor congresswoman to be shot, like the left does. And disgustful is a word. I took this directly from the Internet – look it up.

    1. (adj) disgustful
    provoking disgust; offensive to the taste; exciting aversion; disgusting

  10. Ricky,

    Go over and visit Applesauce if you want to criticize a host that thrwos out names at people, Ted is a gentleman compared to that left-wing loon.

    As for Pelosi, she is a flat out idiot, a dimwit. It’s funny how the left makes fun of Palin or Bachmann when that head full of bricks as their minority leader. Palin or Bachmann would kick her botox head all over the stage in a debate.

  11. kevind1986

    Ricardo.
    Please return to Applesauce. Your hyperbolic comments would make you a good partner with peanut.
    Ted is a gentleman and a scholar – you are neither.

  12. Ted Biondo

    Thanks Terry and Kevind1986, I appreciate your defense of my blog. I do try to keep it based on facts. I do get upset once in a while but try to keep it on an even keel.

    Ricardo, if you want to discuss facts, not emotional stuff, that’s fine, and I’ve been an adult for too long I’m afraid.

  13. And speaking of people that deal in name calling and character assination – it’s could see the air waves will be free of Keith Olbermann.

  14. Let’s try that again: And speaking of people that deal in name calling and character assination – it’s good to see the air waves will be free of Keith Olbermann.

  15. Ted Biondo

    Terry – I couldn’t agree with you more. Have you found out why he is leaving? was it his choice or the station’s choice?

  16. Ted,

    I read that Keith wanted to renegotiate his contract – more money of course (a touch of irony for someone that is so against capitalism – wonder how that rates on Pat’s hypocrisy meter.). While MSNBC/Comcast felt that had a suitable line-up w/o him. If you remember, when Keith was off a few weeks, Lawrence O’Donnell sat in and the rationgs for Countdown went higher. I think MSNBC/Comcast called his bluff and he decided to walk.

  17. So I guess most of you feel if liberals call you names you need to respond in kind. Please grow up and get out of the sandbox!

    Ted, the words you use are name calling and you should be adult enough to admit it! If I made the argument that Bush’s actions were similiar to anything in Nazi Germany would I then be OK calling him a Nazi? In my opinion, no!

    Then Ted, the gentleman and scholar as one of his readers calls him, thanks his readers for calling me names! Not a gentleman, not a scholar, Pelosi called an idiot and loon, and Ted says “thanks”.

    This just proves the point I was trying to make, Ted you are not helping with civil political dialogue (and neither is Cunningham either). You are both using the same old heated rhetoric to pump up your soldiers and sell papers (or try to increase blog readership).

    Thank you Ted, and the rest of you posters, for proving the point that none of you is truly committed to civil political discourse. You would be funny if not so sad!

  18. PS Ted,

    If you found it on the internet, it must be true!

    If the internet is where you find your facts, no wonder this blog isn’t as “fact based” as you claim!

  19. Ricky,

    Calling Pelosi an idiot is fact, not name calling. Clean-up your own house first, before you throw rocks at ours.

  20. Ricky,

    Go see Mr. Applesauce about uncivil language and get him cleaned-up first.

    4. Pat Cunningham | November 15th, 2008 at 12:15 pm
    Billybeer: Who says liberal men don’t think she’s attractive? Sure, she’s good-looking. The problem is she’s stupid.

    http://blogs.e-rockford.com/applesauce/2008/11/14/why-do-so-many-right-wing-men-see-sarah-palin-mainly-as-a-sex-object/

  21. Ted Biondo

    Terry – that’s a pretty sad commentary on his part to even bring up Palin in that contex regardless of who said it. The hell with what people think, even if you disagree with them, to turn to a purely sexist statement by a commedian is a poor substitute for giving reasons why you disagree with someone’s ideas. Sick!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Ted,

    Dennis Miller doesn’t just like Sarah Palin because she is physically attractive. He likes her stand on issues.

    I think what drives the left nuts is if there is a conservative woman or minority, they have to destroy them becuase they believe they really own, politically, all women and minorities.

  23. Ted, I think the bigger story here is you getting thrown out of the meeting. I may not agree with one political thing that you say. But this is United States of America. And you and I have the right to be at any meeting where it concerns public dollars. And since it was appointed by the school administration, we should be able to sit there. We may have no voice or no vote, but we as citizens have that right. That’s the story. The story of mistrust, because some people think that they can interpret the law the way they see fit.

  24. Ted Biondo

    Jerry – welcome to the blog. I agree with everything you wrote, except maybe the fact that the bigest story was that I was thrown out. That was part of the story and I posted that fact.

    However, believe me when I say I was kept in the loop by some of the people who wanted financial advice from me. The real story was that the board wasn’t involved because of the way the committee was formed to take advantage of a loophole in the Open Meetings Act. We elect THEM to develop the budget, not some appointed committee – that’s why I showed up because of my past 18 years dealing with municipal budgets.

    The reason given by administration was that this method was used to have others not interfere with the deliberations of the members of the committee so they could arrive at their conclusions.

    But tht’s the rub, there was no other input on recommendations of public funds as you state, and why I posted what I did, regardless of the administration’s reasons. Possible other recommendations would have been better – we will never know!

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