I don’t believe my request for a detailed line-by-line report of the Beaumont Unified budgeted expenditures will ever be granted. I don’t believe that a report like this has ever been provided to any of our board members. I believe they are given summarized totals of categorical accounts. I believe they are instructed that much of the money is restricted for specific uses and that they have very little flexibility in spending. They are expected to assume the administration’s budgeted expenses and forecasted revenue figures are accurate. Then they are provided with a limited number of options to consider reducing or eliminating in order to get the expenses in line with the revenue.
I expected my request would receive very little serious consideration. I expected to hear that the budget is so large and involved and to provide the line item details would be too burdensome. When I have raised this issue in the past, I have been told school district budgets are complicated and would be hard for me to understand. I’ve been told many categories of expenses have rules that would take a long time for me to understand. I have been advised to work with an administrator or union representative with experience in government school finance to help me tailor a more specific request.
I have a bachelor degree in economics and a master’s in business administration and my wife has a bachelor degree in accounting. I think we are up to the task of looking at the budget and determining how our kids’ resources are being spent. I’m not interested in working with an expert in government school finance. We are supposed to have experts already working for us. The closest they have been able to come to accurately budgeting the district expenses over the last 6 years is $2.5 million; they have been off as much as $5 million. These experts would argue this is 4 - 8% of the approximately $60 million dollar budget.
Let me express this in a way that may be easier for us non-experts to understand. If your family was making $60,000 a year, at the end of the year you would have underestimated your spending by $2,500 - $5,000. Would you regret the sacrifices you have asked your family to make? Would you feel you may have robbed your children of a more carefree childhood? Would you be comfortable knowing these are years in their lives that should be happy and carefree that they will never be able to get back? I know I wouldn’t.
What I was hoping to accomplish with my request, was to wake up our school board members. I wanted them to admit they are unaware of the detailed programs and services they are choosing over the smaller class sizes, safer transportation, and instructional days. I want them to stop making long term financial commitments to new programs, services and training and have faith that our teachers already have the skills and they know how best to teach our kids. I wanted them to start thinking for themselves and asking for more accountability from their employees. I wanted them to think about what our families are sacrificing next time they authorize salary extensions and increased benefits for their administrators. I wanted them to start asking the questions we are all asking and we entrusted them to ask.