Forum Thread: School Board Wrestles with How Best Its Budget Should Communicate Its Needs

The school system's FY19-28 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) reflects the School Board's challenge to articulate to City Council and the public its overarching budget philosophy.

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"We want to make sure that you all understand … that this 10-year CIP leaves major gaps" in student seating capacity, School Board Chair Ramee Gentry told City Council at a Jan. 29 joint work session.

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On the one hand, the School Board knew that when they unanimously adopted their CIP on Jan. 25. The plan deliberately delays and cuts capacity-adding projects, aligning with recent recommendations from a "blue ribbon" advisory task force. Those recommendations were, in part, to accommodate the limited year-by-year funding indicated by the city manager. As a result, the schools' CIP this year weighs in at $475 million, down from $611 million last year.

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On the other hand, the School Board fears giving any impression that this paring back is an acceptable long-term solution. They've grappled with how to communicate their students' full needs, if not through specifically allocated dollars. Ultimately they decided to illustrate unmet needs in the language of their CIP adoption resolution and budget document. This language conveys the expectation that means outside the normal CIP convention — naming projects in specific years with specific dollar amounts — will address unmet needs. These new means, as of yet undeveloped, are also task force recommendations.

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. As with the city's other master plans, this would entail stretching planning and funding considerations beyond the current 10-year timeframe. For example, though the School Board's present CIP excludes pre-K expansion, their adoption resolution suggests that the new master plan should include it. School Board member Karen Graf says this new master plan "is going to be a key for generations, not just this moment."

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