kitchen table math, the sequel: Singapore Math explains the budget!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Singapore Math explains the budget!

I'm back!

Just about.

The budget passed, making my district one of just 8 in all of New York state to pass a tax-cap override.

Damn the luck! 5.7% year-on-year increase in spending. The actual tax increase will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 8%.

I wish school districts had exit polls. How many 'Yes' voters knew they were voting for a $2.1 million dollar surplus? Not too many, I bet.

Of those 'yes' voters who did know they were voting to fund a budget surplus, many doubtlessly believed there was only $900k in the "fund balance," not the $2.1 million the district reported to the state.

Meanwhile Scarsdale voters clobbered their budget.

Maybe if we had dumped Trailblazers for Singapore Math when Scarsdale did, we'd be voting against $2-million dollar surpluses, too.

For the record, I was having a lot of difficulty grasping the fund balance until I drew the bar model. At least in my experience, the fungibility of money is counterintuitive. I kept getting caught up in worries about "programs" and "teachers" etc. It was quite difficult for me to grasp that we were voting on a surplus, not "programs" and not "teachers."

I'm certain many, many voters just didn't 'see' the budget in the way a bar model presents it: as one big chunk of money, with $2.1 million not dedicated to any item appearing in the budget. Yes votes were  votes for programs, not the surplus.

The corollary: it's easy for administrators and school boards to blow smoke where the fund balance is concerned. In our case, the superintendent and board president, who was running for re-election, told the local newspaper that we "really" had only $900K in the fund because a) the federal government might not send the $700K it's supposed to send and b) $400K was being used to pay a tax cert. The first claim is absurd; the second is misleading because the district ran more than the legally allowed surplus this year (you can see that on the documents).

Normally the way things work is that whenever the fund balance is too high, the district pays down debt to get back below the limit. I'm sure that's what they did with the $400K. District documents show an extra $300K surplus between last year and this, apart from the $2 million dollar surplus.)

Singapore math explains the budget

1 comment:

Allan Folz said...

In Oregon the big lie by omission is that "school programs" includes funding the public employees pension. It's not even for current teachers, it's for current retirees. And, of course, the gold-bricked retirees aren't very often teachers either. They are the upper-level administrators and various other governmental upper and middle managers. Retirees getting a pension of 90%, or better, of their working wages is just ho-hum business as usual. The thing now is for these people to "retire" get their 90% or better pension then get their old job back as a part-time contract. Because they don't have to pay the pension match on the part-time contract, it's a benefit for the individual school districts. They are working half as much, making about 125% of their old income, and still receiving group-plan health insurance benefits. That tax payers are getting raked over the coals twice gets omitted as well. Fortunately it's for the children, or I'd be really upset by it.