Board of Education's budget to be based on need

January 13, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The Washington County Board of Education has a new budget process, according to Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

The School Board held a work session Tuesday night to discuss changes in the budget process. School officials say the changes will be a lasting improvement and will provide for public input at an earlier stage.

"It's 180 degrees different than it used to be," Bartlett said.

The shift is a result of the 1997 curriculum audit, which recommended several changes, said Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Theresa Flak. She explained the new process, which is part of the recently created strategic plan.

"We are moving to a programmatic or needs-based budget, which is not the same as a zero-based budget but a reflection of needs as indicated by data," Flak said.


Schools have been asked to back up their budget requests with data, or statistics such as dropout rates and test scores.

Schools also must now tie their requests to improvement goals, Flak said. Each one will answer the question: "If we give you what you think you need, how will you show us this has made a difference?" she said. That way, "there is accountability in the budget."

The new process will be "much more inclusive of the community. We don't want to just present the budget, then have a public hearing and say, 'now what do you think?'" Flak said. A key element of the curriculum audit was the need to involve the public sooner, she said.

"We have to make our needs public," she said. "It won't serve us or our public if we just moan about it in-house."

Well-funded school systems have "good budget advocacy" in the community, she said.

Previously, the administration decided which schools needed funding based on enrollment. A school that had 1,200 students was more of a budget priority than one with 300 students, according to Flak. "It was pretty much done by head count," she said.

Now, funding will be based on "a demonstration of need," she said. Instead of sending out questionnaires to "shareholder groups" like parent-teacher associations, all the groups will be brought together for meaningful dialogue, Flak said.

The superintendent is scheduled to present his budget to the School Board on Feb. 2. The first public hearing will be held Feb. 9.

The Herald-Mail Articles