🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
As the budget cycle for the 2021-2022 school year progresses, there have been several more budget meetings since our last budget blog. This blog will report on all of the March budget meetings...
This blog pays special attention to the March 15th and March 18th budget meetings; however, we also touch on the March 29th budget work session. Keep reading to hear our student-centered take on these recent budget meetings and the budgeting process as a whole.
3/15 Budget Meeting: The March 15th budget work session started with a budget presentation by Dr. Johnson. The budget & calendar survey results had over 11,000 total responses, with 63.7% coming from parents. The survey results (that the school board has discussed, but not publicly released) give the county accurate responses of what parts need the most funding. I’m really glad that these types of meetings and surveys exist so that everyones’ perspective is taken into account. The survey results gave us insight into concerns addressing student learning loss, improving student access to the internet/connectivity, and purchasing additional devices.
Dr. Johnson conveyed that 250 participants gave feedback in the virtual budget meetings. Common themes for the responses include whole child support, Exceptional Education, additional staffing, summer learning, arts, investments in tech, and My Minutes Matter. The Student Voice Team attended the student budget meetings to convey our perspective on Future Ready, Teachers, Engaged Communities, and Efficient & Effective Operations.
My favorite part of the budget is Future Ready Institutes. I’ve been a part of the business pathway at Hixson High since my freshman year, and all I can say is that I absolutely love it. It has grown so much in my three years, and I know it’ll grow even more to be something unique for future students, especially now since eighth-graders are allowed to pick a high school based on career options.
3/18 Budget Meeting: The first part of the March 18th school board budget meeting was rather dull. As a student who has followed three budget cycles now and generally has a decent tolerance for procedural matters and school board conversation, this was definitely one of the blandest and most uninteresting meetings that I have watched. This meeting was primarily focused on where the school system is getting its money from, when they’re getting it, how their estimates for last year have matched what’s actually happening, and what they are predicting for next year. I understand that this is an essential part of the school system’s budgeting process, but it still seemed like the board was focusing more on the trees than the forest.
Often, when we think about school budgets, we think about all of the things we can do with the budget and the money. However, this meeting seemed to focus more on tangents with future planning like mask rules for next year. Most of the plan for this meeting was to go over the timeline of what the budget group has right now and what will continue to happen in the next few weeks. However, this was undoubtedly one of the behind-the-scenes meetings that was previously a cool look the first few times I had seen it happen. Now it is evident that the previously interesting behind the scenes is actually just a normal meeting with a far more boring subject. Don’t get me wrong, I still find budgeting important and interesting; this just wasn’t my favorite part of the process.
During this meeting, the presenter from the central office was new and is still learning the ropes of the Hamilton County Budgeting Process. However, she did a fantastic job and seemed to answer most of everyone’s questions with clarity without launching into extremely long explanations like some current and former staff and board members.
3/29 Budget Meeting and Conclusion: Although these two meetings varied wildly in purpose and content, they were crucial steps of the school budgeting process. This process continued during another budget meeting on March 29th. During this meeting, the central office presented their entire General Purpose budget to the school board. Time and again, this budget cycle has been referred to as fiscally conservative due to the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The unknowns still loom as to what the economy will look like over the next few months. Despite the conservative nature of this budget, it does appear that there is going to be a substantial amount of federal and state aid to support the school system this coming year, which will allow them to do more bold and ‘risky’ things.
We’ll see you back here soon for the final budget update!