School District Budget History

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School District Budget History

Postby ggkrupp » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:18 pm

As indicated by Vice Chair Ortega at the end of the School Board meeting this evening, the prior year school budget books have been posted on the SAU's website at http://www.merrimack.k12.nh.us/budget.cfm?subpage=687668. The data is in PDF form so it should be viewable on any PC.

I think trend data is important in any budgeting process and I have taken some time this Summer to put data together for the last 7 voter-approved school budgets in order to prepare for budget season on the budget committee. This is a product that contains all of the gross expenditures (no revenue info) and I intend to share it with anyone in the public that has an interest but I don't have the graphs complete yet. My original intent was to add the 2012-2013 Proposed Budget to the data to give an 8-year look, produce the graphs and then post the results for anyone to download but I wonder if there is any interest by voters to get that data now??

I can see an argument for wanting the data now as this would enable the taxpayer to engage the School Board members on budget issues before the School Board begins making their cuts/adds to the SAU proposed budget. The voters are always encouraged to engage in the budgeting process but the only real formal engagement opportunities are at the public hearings by the Budget Committee and at the Deliberative Session ... both of which occur at the very end of the process (making it very difficult to make a case for changes).

An open question to any and all:

Would you be interested in a budget trend data presentation that you could download soon?

You can post here, PM me or email me at ggkrupp@yahoo.com if you are interested. If there is sufficient public interest, I will put in some effort to finish the presentation off and post it. If not, I will wait until the budget committee gets the budget.
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:53 pm

Gary

I would be interested in this information. THank you for offering.
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby MattPublicover » Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:45 pm

Gary, I wholeheartedly support your approach to gathering and disseminating this data. During the last two of my 4 years on the budget committee -- that is, once the budgets were released in Excel format -- I assembled a file containing the year-to-year trends, similar to what you are doing. However, I did not go back as far as you did, nor did I consider making the data available to the general public. So I applaud you for that step.

One thing that came out of this sort of analysis is the fact that the budget binders prepared by the administration, which provide some prior year data and some explanations, do not cover line items that are zeroed out in the current year. Sometimes it is as significant to know what is not being funded as it is to know what is being funded.

I would caution about drawing too many conclusions from the oldest end of the time spectrum in your file. 7 years encompasses a lot of change within a school district, and without a full understanding of the reasons behind certain decreases or increases from then until now, it could end up providing fodder more for ill-informed rants than well-informed reason.
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby ggkrupp » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:42 pm

Matt -

You make some great points. There is no doubt that a trend analysis over such a long period of time has limitations but I do think it helps the casual observer zero in on things that should be explained by administration.

I've setup the analysis to look at the budget from all four dimensions (Program, Object, Function, & Unit) rather than just the by-Unit and by-Object look that comes in the budget book. Part of my goal was to make these 900+ individual line items more digestible so I provide an overall budget roll-up for each dimension that is ordered by % of current budget. This way, we can look at the most significant budget items first rather than grilling some department head about his 250% increase on budget item X that amounts to 0.02% of the budget.

The next thing I did was make "Budget Breakout Sheets" for each grouping that represented more than 2% of the budget (~$1.2M) and also ordered those by % of impact on budget to make it easier to drill down to see what is driving the increase/decrease for a given category.

Lastly, I've tried to put some more descriptive names to the Object, Function and Program names because the given names from the State's Accounting Classification Guidance are too broad to help voters understand the grouping.

I have the tables of numbers pretty much complete (just need to add a few more descriptive category names for Objects and Functions) but I recognize that pages of numbers may be a turn off for some. I want to produce some graphs that help taxpayers see what the trends look like and then back that up with the tables so that they can dig down to whatever level they'd like to in order to get the full picture. I think the budget book can be intimidating (I know it was for me) so I'd like to help voters understand the things that are really driving the expenditures.

Hopefully when I get this project completed, I'll have time to do a similar history on the revenue side of the budget.

Thanks for your comments Matt
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby ggkrupp » Sat Oct 15, 2011 8:27 am

The budget expenditure files are complete and posted on my Comcast website. You can access the files at the link below. Please spread the word to anyone you know that might be interested. Any feedback (positive or negative) is appreciated.

http://home.comcast.net/~eegeek/site/?/home/
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby Debra Huffman » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:26 pm

Wow. I downloaded your PDF. This is a very impressive level of effort. Thank you, Gary.

I don't get too involved in school issues, but I'm curious about one thing. On pages 5 and 6, the first two charts, why is the Mathematics program broken out, but the Science program, Languages program, Music programs, English programs, etc. are not broken out like that? Is the Mathematics program the only one that costs 3% or more of the budget? (Let me jump the gun a bit here to say I hope that is not the case. Science, sure, I can see that. Labs, experiments... sure. Absolutely. No problem. But Math? Really? I must be missing something.)
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby ggkrupp » Sat Oct 15, 2011 6:02 pm

Hi Debra,

Thank you for the feedback.

To answer your question, yes, the Mathematics Program was more than 2% of the budget so I included it on the graphs. The graphs were too cluttered if everything was plotted so I only included items that represented 2% or more of the current budget. You can see how the Math expenditures stack up relative to the other curriculum areas if you look on Pages 30-33. There is probably not as much difference between the curriculum budgets as it appears though and here is why I say so. If you look on the Program 11 (Math Education) breakdown sheets (pgs 26-27) you'll see that the Math program also gets charged with 5 Computer Teacher Salaries in the district which may bias the total expenditure a little higher than the others. That is my first stab at answering the question but it might be better if you ask one of the School Board members and/or School Administration to get the most complete answer. These are the kinds of questions I hoped this data would allow voters to ask.

Thanks again for taking the time to look at the data.
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby Debra Huffman » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:36 am

ggkrupp wrote:the Math program also gets charged with 5 Computer Teacher Salaries in the district which may bias the total expenditure a little higher than the others.

Ah. Ok. That's a reasonable explanation. Thank you.
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Re: School District Budget History

Postby ggkrupp » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:09 pm

To anyone interested in the budget history data:

I have put together a few slides to help explain the organization of the data in my spreadsheet to the budget committee members. Please use the link below if you'd like see the presentation.

http://home.comcast.net/~eegeek/download/20111108_BudgetTrends_ggk.pdf

Also, if you still haven't downloaded the budget data files yet, use the link below to view the webpage where you can download them.

http://home.comcast.net/~eegeek
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