I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Budget Meeting Ends with Mixed Results

The budget meeting continued Tuesday afternoon from Monday, April 21, ended with mixed results. The Board, after much discussion and public input, voted to approve the Superintendent's recommended staffing allocation table. For my part, I felt comfortable voting for this document at this time because if funding becomes available to fund some of the positions cut, this can be accomplished at some future date before next school year begins. In the mean time, having the staffing allocation approved will allow for each individual school to begin their staff planning for next school year. Also, the modified staffing allocation brought back the media specialists that had been recommended for elimination, and the Board was pleased to see this.

With respect to the Personnel Planning Document, the results were not the same. All of the members of the Board had questions on this item. For my part, I was happy to see that the Teacher on Special Assignment for the NAS Pensacola Flight Adventure Deck was spared from the budget axe. I was equally happy to see that the position of Executive Assistant for The Foundation for Excellence in Education was also put back into the document. What I would have liked to see was for more of an explanation as to why more cuts to more top level jobs were not considered. I have had numerous phone calls, emails, and conversations with constituents and district employees on this issue. The perception, whether real or not, is that in this particular budget crisis, too few from the top levels of the administration are being considered for elimination. The quickest way, in my opinion, to address this perception is to list the positions and the pay for these positions on our website. We are a public agency, and all employees in this district are subject to the state open government laws that allow for this information to be disseminated to the public. I, at the behest of an email from a constituent, requested this information from the Superintendent on Thursday, April 24th. My request was to have the salaries listed on the district website, so the public could have full access and could be fully informed as to who makes what for what position. Simply telling the public that we "are not top-heavy" without showing the back up data will not convince many of the skeptics. My conversation with Mr. Paul yesterday left me feeling confident that the list will be put together. Once I get the list, I will request that it be placed on the district web page, and if it is not I'll post it here on my blog.

My thought before the vote on the Personnel Planning Document was that we were close, and that given one more week and the possibility of a few additional cuts from admin staff, we could have approved this document. It was my intention to request one additional week to work on the PPD and come back as a Board to approve it. My fellow Board members did not support this idea, instead going ahead with an up or down vote. For my part, I can approve the PPD with a few more cuts that could serve to restore some of the cuts considered for music/athletics/art and PE. But, I was not prepared to vote on it as presented yesterday, even though the Superintendent has made some modest concessions and taken some of the Board's recommendations in the latest version. The up or down vote to approve the PPD failed 4-1. The silver lining may be that more time before approval of the PPD may also translate into more time to receive additional budget saving ideas from the public. I have been receiving numerous calls and emails from concerned citizens, and the level of engagement from the public has been extremely helpful. I hope it continues as we all search for ways to balance this budget.

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