from Ruth Robarts March 14, 2004

The Madison School District faces a funding crisis for the next school
year. Unfortunately, Board actions are adding to the crisis.

The main causes of MMSD's funding problems are under-funding of K-12
education by the state and federal governments and over-reliance on
residential property taxes for local services. However, inadequate
financial planning by the superintendent and Board of Education is making a
bad situation worse for our children and community. We will lose the
confidence and support of our community if the Board does not take control
of the budget, involve the community in budget priorities and unite the
community in efforts to change state and federal taxation and school
funding laws.

The Board should not continue to delegate the budget decisions to the
administrative management team and limit the Board role to reacting to a
yearly list of cuts.

Superintendent Rainwater's recommendations for next year demonstrate how
inadequate and damaging are the results of this delegation. For 2004-05,
the superintendent recommends cutting nearly $10M from programs. These cuts
represent 3% of a budget of nearly $318M.

94% of the proposed cuts directly and negatively affect the schools. 80% of
the cuts are cuts of school staff including 87.4 teachers and 27.1 teaching
assistants. (total 114.5 of 138.7 cuts). Another 14% of the cuts are
deferrals of building maintenance, equipment purchases, purchases of
musical instruments and the like. No administrators are cut and there will
be a new district athletic administrator added. The final 6% of the
recommendations are not cuts but new revenues from increased fees and
outside grants.

The superintendent's recommendation includes $15.7M for wages and salaries
of 155 administrators, not including increases for next year or the new
athletic administrator created in the superintendent's budget. There are
no administrative cuts.

The Board of Education should not accept this list of cuts or be satisfied
with making minor changes in the cuts. The Board should analyze the other
97% of the budget and make its own cuts. It could start by holding all
instructional areas harmless (granting increases caused by inflation) and
cutting non-instructional budgets by 5%. This approach would narrow the gap
by $7M and be a good starting point for further discussions and adjustments.
Beginning with the budget for 2004-05, the Board must plan the budget on a
3-5 year basis. The largest costs in a district budget are salaries and
wages for unionized staff, especially teachers, and
administrators. Contracts for these staff are on two-year cycles.

The superintendent's recommendations for 2004-05 show how Board deference
to the superintendent compounds MMSD's budget problems.
In 2003, the superintendent recommended, a two-year contract with Madison
Teacher, Inc. that added $7M in additional in costs to the 2003-04
budget. The Board approved the contract and then went to referendum in
June to pay those costs. (The $3.3M from the referendum was added to $9M in
additional taxing authority gained when the state budget raised the
"revenue limits".)

The same two-year contract adds an additional $8M in costs for 2004-05.

Now the superintendent recommends cutting almost $8M in teaching positions.
Meanwhile the district continues to have 155 administrators on the payroll
on contracts that extend two years into the future. Our children and our
community deserve better.

Madison School District Budget Site