Dear School Board Members:

I received a copy of the Proposed CAB Cuts for FY 2002 that is included in your board packet for the meeting tomorrow, April 26. After reviewing the proposal, I feel that it is misleading and would like to share my findings with you for your consideration.

* The total "cuts" on this proposal show $1,213,750. However,
$240,000 of this total are not in fact cuts. Instead they are a
reallocation of funds.

* The true total "cuts" amount to $973,750. Of this amount, only
$366,000 are CAB Cuts (please refer to the first subtotal and the
heading associated with it). This $366,000 is only 37.6% of the total
cuts. This $366,000 is 30.2% of the $1,213,750.

* The remaining $607,750 in cuts are cuts within Duluth Public
Schools not within CAB. This $607,750 is 62.4% of the total cuts of
$973,750 and 69.8% of the $1,213,750. Not only is CAB calling these CAB cuts, but they also dictated to the schools what will be cut. School administration asked the staff at all schools to provide them with cost saving ideas, yet those ideas were not even incorporated into this proposal.

After closely reviewing this proposal, I believe you will see that my
calculations are correct and that saying that CAB is cutting $1,213,750 is misleading and deceptive. The public trust in the school administration and school board will be seriously further compromised if this proposal is accepted at face value. Fiscal responsibility also requires that a spade is called a spade.


M l

My Reply to M I

Dear M,

When the Administration said it would cut $1.2 million from its budget I was very skeptical. I know that the American public has come to expect administrative fat but I could not imagine where our administration would find that kind of savings. My skepticism was based on the experience of a decade ago when the public demanded, and the School Board gave them, administrative cuts. They were so draconian that they left our administration shorthanded. We began ignoring important functions - like notifying insurers to drop retired teachers from the insurance premiums we paid. As a result we could not adequately manage our resources and ended up $5.5 million in debt. This debt was building when I was first elected 6 years ago. We have since paid the debt off and built up a reserve the importance of which to the district is greatly misunderstood by the public.

You are right that when you say that we will be criticized when the public realizes that our "administrative" cuts are also coming out of other pots. It would have been smarter and more accurate had we described the cuts as: "not coming from the classroom." This would also have been in keeping with our current budgeting philosophy.

The real administrative cuts which amount to less than a third of the total $1.2 million are still substantial. Especially since the administration is a relatively small portion of our overall budget. In fact, the administration will suffer more cuts in the next few months as we continue to work on our budget. This will be necessary since our Board refused to make one of the easiest cuts of all by switching to a six hour day. It has still to be determined where these additional $1.2 million dollars cuts will come from - some will surely be administrative. 

I don't believe our plan to make administrative cuts was disingenuous or intentionally misleading. School finance is complicated and describing things quickly and easily leads to the kind of inaccuracies you've noted. For instance, a few years ago we regularly talked about our student-teacher ratios which were absolutely accurate. Unfortunately, the public got the idea that these ratios referred to class size. The difference in the ratios was explained by the fact that many of our teachers are not in the classroom. It was an honest oversimplification but many people accused the district of giving out false information. We now more scrupulously report actual classroom student teacher ratios. 

I hope that the public will give us a chance to sort out our finances without too much suspicion or too many accusations. Skepticism is always called for to keep us honest but so is patience. Our administrators are all dedicated public servants. Most of their positions have been made necessary by the increasingly complex laws and standards imposed upon us by our many regulators. They expect us to keep track of and document our efforts to abide by the laws and regulations imposed upon us.

Thanks for your email.

Harry Welty