Janesville25.7°

School budgeting to start with zero

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 10, 2010
— The Janesville School Board seems satisfied with the idea of turning the annual budget process on its head.

The board didn’t vote, but no one objected Tuesday night when the district’s new chief financial officer, Keith Pennington, described a “modified zero-based budgeting” process.


Board member Diedre Richard has championed zero-based budgeting. The idea is that money spent this year does not necessarily have to be spent next year. Instead, managers must justify the continued spending.


“ ‘We did it last year’ is not an excuse,” Pennington said after the meeting.


Pennington said this is how he is used to managing budgets, but the school district has not done it that way. Instead, budgets for the next year were based on what was done in the previous year.


In the past, the board concentrated on new spending and spending cuts, and discussions never looked at the millions of dollars in spending that were simply renewed, said board member Tim Cullen.


Pennington said time and resources don’t allow the entire budget to be examined line-by-line this year, so he will meet with principals and department heads to examine line items in major spending areas.


Pennington said he wants principals and other administrators to be more involved in budgeting than he believes they have been in the past.


Next year, Pennington wants to expand the process to encompass more of the budget.


This year’s budget is about $115 million.


Richard, who is running for re-election, has mentioned zero-based budgeting as one of the things she wanted to accomplish if voters return her to the board in April.


Pennington presented other budget changes. He wants the board to set goals at the beginning of the process. He asked the board to weigh in next month on what they want to spend on staff, the total budget and the size of the tax levy.


Board President DuWayne Severson suggested a special meeting to set those goals. No date was set.


In another change, a tentative budget will be presented for a public hearing in June, but the board’s final approval won’t come until October.


In past years, the budget was approved in the summer.


IN OTHER BUSINESS

On Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Discussed but took no action on a bill in the state Legislature that would make a few changes in how sex education is taught in Janesville schools. Bill Sodemann, who opposes the bill on several counts, asked for a vote at the next board meeting on whether to urge the governor to veto the bill and start over.


Director of Instruction Donna Behn said the bill would require the teaching of the methods of using contraceptives. Contraceptives are covered in the current curriculum, but not the specifics of how they are used, she said.


-- Learned that the board will be asked to give final approval for the high school referendum projects at their next meeting, as required by board policy. Final spending figures are expected to be available at that time.



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