District’s Fuzzy Math

Guest Column – Cedar Rapids Gazette

District’s Fuzzy Math

At Tuesday, April 8th ICCSD board meeting, school administration unveiled its district budget adjustment summary. Included was a long list of curriculum, sports and other staffing cuts to prevent the district from deficit spending. We’ve all heard about the language elimination to 7th graders, the phasing out of German and elementary orchestra cuts; the general education Para-educator, elimination of library staffing and on and on. One of the only Administration hits was highlighted as being a $100,000.00 savings for not filling the Director of Community Relations position.

This item caught my eye as I have many times commented on this position for many years. As you may or may not remember, the Homebuilding program was eliminated similarly about five (5) years ago to save $60,000.00. I have always argued that the money spent for the Director of Community Relations could have been better used to provide curriculum for our students in the construction field. When the district chose to eliminate this position, I was curious as to how they came up with a $100,000.00 savings since the individuals last published salary was only $73,000.00 a year for a part-time position. Is this the District’s way of rounding to the nearest $100,000.00 or did this position receive $27,000.00 in benefits and perks. And let’s be honest – they haven’t eliminated the position either, just retitled it. The position is now called Coordinator of Community Affairs and is a fulltime position that receives $60,000.00 a year. So, actually it’s only a savings of $13,000.00. And who says the Administration isn’t enduring pain in this budget crisis. We would not need a PR branch of our schools if we maintain our curriculum and provide for the needs of our students.

In the 4/13/14 Press-Citizen, School Board president Sally Hoelscher urges residents to contact their legislator about State Aid: “I think we just have to make as much noise as possible”. As a citizen I have tried to make as much noise as possible for the board to examine the consent agenda which ranges from $2-4 million dollars at each meeting but president Hoelscher has no interest in it. It’s much easier to complain that we’re not getting more money to spend than to closely scrutinize your own spending which you have 100% control over. And let’s not forget what they’ve spent money on: $500,000.00 to an unnamed land developer for a road, $154,000.00 for a contractor’s mistake in the City High Fine Arts addition, $172,000.00 for Administrative parking behind the ESC, $78,000.00 for a test kitchen at the Physical Plant, and millions of dollars for “NO BID” contracts to vendors.

They still have no policy for competitive bidding on service contracts. How many months of Board time and effort was wasted on “Community Comment” at Board meetings when we should have been discussing areas to save money.

Get your own house in order before you gripe about Des Moines!

Phil Hemingway