Hannibal’s Board of Education discussed whether it would be a good idea to create a budget committee that would have members of the community on it.
The discussion at a recent meeting comes amidst warnings of a very difficult period ahead for school budgets.
School district contributions to a state retirement fund are way up and will go up even more in the next two budgets.
State aid was cut this past year, though federal stimulus funds were used to cover the cuts.Ã‚Â The stimulus funds go away after the next budget year and the state has already taken away some of next year’s education stimulus funds to fill its own budget deficit.
“We are looking at two really tough years to get through,” said board president Dale Young, at the beginning of a discussion of a committee to study the budget that would be made up of board members, district officials and volunteers from the public.
Typically, the district’s administration brings an initial budget proposal to the board, which has usually given the administrators a goal. For instance, the board told the administration to bring the current budget in with no more than a 2% tax levy increase.
“I think the community would appreciate a closer look at the budget process,” said board member Matt Henderson.
But Young cautioned that the process could backfire on efforts to build trust in the community.Ã‚Â What if, he asked, people tell us what they want and the board says no?
Board member Fred Patane said citizens were ignoring the opportunities they already have to participate in the budget process, where the discussion takes place at public board of education meetings.Ã‚Â “Everybody in the community can come and see the budget process,” he said.Ã‚Â “There’s not much more we can show ’em.”
The board and district need to communicate better in the community, Young said, noting that a budget committee with citizen input might be one way to help get the word out.Ã‚Â “For this year and next year, it’s gonna be a bear,” he said. “I don’t want to get screamed at” by members of the community.
The board took no action on the idea but planned to study the idea.Ã‚Â Superintendent Mike DiFabio warned that, “Whether (community members) sit at the table or not, the final decision is the board’s.”