Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spending Priorities

The first meeting of the School Board each calendar year is an organizational meeting, and ours was held last night. The purpose of the meeting is for the five of us to elect a President and Vice-President, and for the new President to make committee appointments for the other Board members.

There is also a resolution authorizing the Superintendent and Treasurer to take various actions during the course of the year, essentially delegating authority for a specific set of things to those two executives.

The Board also authorizes expenditures to sustain our memberships in a three organizations, the National School Boards Association, the Ohio School Boards Association, and the Metropolitan Education Council.

I thought it was appropriate to discuss the need to continue our NSBA membership, and made a motion to amend the resolution to delete references to NSBA - in other words to terminate our membership. I thank Heather Keck for seconding my motion, and allowing a discussion to take place. These were my verbatim comments:
"The cost of our NSBA membership and services last year was $13,000.
It is not my contention that this is wasted money - only that I don’t believe it’s our highest priority. We’ve promised the people of Hilliard that we wouldn’t put another levy on the ballot before 2014, and to keep that promise, we have to be even more frugal with our spending.
I believe our highest priority should be in classroom and school buildings. This $13,000 could purchase a dozen additional ELMO digital overhead projectors, or allow us to upgrade some of the well-used copiers in our buildings. We could buy more of the innovative student tracking software like we saw demonstrated by the math department at Davidson recently.
It could buy new tires for a bunch of school buses, or patch up a few potholes in school parking lots.
Or it could not be spent at all, and help us regain the 10% operating reserve which is our policy.
No spending cut is without impact, and this is a relatively small amount of money in comparison to a $160 million budget. But I believe this sends the right message to the community and to the employees of the school district - that the Board is willing to make cuts in its own budget as well."
Other Board members expressed their opinions in regard to the value our district receives from our NSBA membership, primarily in two areas: a) the importance of continuing professional development for Board members, both for the benefit of the members and to set an example for the professional team; and, b) the value of the national and state lobbying efforts made by NSBA on behalf of its members.

I don't disagree, but think there are more impactful ways to spend the taxpayers' money.

My motion was defeated 1-4, with me casting the one "yea" vote. The main resolution then passed 5-0.


  1. That is, indeed, the problem with budget cuts. Everyone loves talking about cutting budgets in the abstract, but very few people will name specific line items. Thanks for the effort; it's not unnoticed.

  2. Thanks. By the way, this isn't a radical idea to withdraw from NSBA - both the Worthington and Olentangy school boards have dropped out as well, not finding sufficient value to spend the money.

    My brother-in-law is the Superintendent of a well-respected school district in another state, and has told me they don't participate in NSBA either, for the same reason.

    I've chosen not to add to our NSBA spending by declining to attend any of their annual conferences, which are held in places like San Diego, Chicago and Boston. Several of the other Board members do attend every year.

  3. Would I assume that the district then also pays for those Board members to attend? If so, even more reason to drop out.

  4. My understanding is that some or all of the travel costs are paid via 'points' we receive for use of an American Express corporate account.

  5. Paul - You do realize that your motion, which received a second, is NOT in the minutes of the meeting?

    Please have these minutes adjusted by the secretary, and make sure the board realizes this error, and that approving the minutes of this meeting without the motion documented could be viewed as failing to adequately perform the duties expected of board members.

    One might be led to believe that the board didn't want those not present at the meeting (99%+ of the taxpayers) to know that this was even debated...

    One might also begin to wonder what else is debated that never finds its way into the minutes...

  6. M ... my motion was made during the Organizational Meeting, and its minutes do record my motion, second and vote.

    I do indeed review the minutes for each meeting before casting my vote to accept. I have rarely found errors.

    But to your point, little is debated at our meetings, a concern I've expressed for a number of years.

  7. My mistake - I read the regular meeting minutes twice instead of it and the organizational meeting.