After last year’s almost complete absence of public discussion on the proposed $100 million plus SMMUSD budget, I didn’t think it could get worse; but it has! And given the tone of the comments from the Financial Oversight Committee members at their last meeting on June 6, I believe they are suffering from the same extreme discomfort that I am with this year’s budget process.
Here’s why I am not surprised.
For over two years, the FOC has been promised information from the district that would help them fulfill their public mandate under Measure ‘S’, a.k.a. the SMMUSD Quality Public Education Preservation Act of 2003. Adding to their frustration, the FOC is scheduled to have a joint meeting to discuss with the Board of Education the Independent Auditor’s Report and next year’s expenditure plan agendized for this coming Thursday’s Board meeting in SM Council Chambers. The FOC and the Board need to explain why the Audit Report on Measure “S” incorrectly includes data on the Second Package Restoration from Santa Monica City contributions. According to the Master Facilities Use Agreement with the City of Santa Monica, the tracking of city contributions (a completely different funding source from the Measure “S” parcel tax revenue) is supposed to be part of a separate annual report during the regular budget cycles of the two organizations.
In addition, the FOC’s Board-directed focus this year was a repeat from last year’s: (a) opportunities for timely review by the FOC and the public prior to Board Action; (b) design of a District budget public education program; and (c), design of a user-friendly budget presentation format. For the second year in a row, the committee has received few opportunities from administration for timely review of budget items and nothing on (b) and (c) above. In stark contrast to user-friendly, the preliminary budget materials and enrollment projections-presented for discussion late in the evening at the May 19 meeting and the updated version discussed in the early morning hours of the June 2 and 3 meeting-were incomplete, difficult to track, and often confusing. The FOC was also promised monthly budget updates, timely enrollment data and projections, and an FOC link on the District web site so that the public would have easy access to budgetary activity and FOC meetings and output. Never happened. The Board and the public deserve the whole truth about administrative practices and district operations, so that they can make informed decisions about the District’s future.
Former SMMUSD teacher