On Tuesday, Jan. 31, more than 30 school and community members gathered in the High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. for the first RCS Community Budget Forum. Superintendent Elisabeth Smith and Assistant Superintendent for Business Greg Giammarco shared a presentation that outlined the district’s continued mission and current challenges in the face of the fiscal realities of the 2012-13 budget forecast.
Following the budget presentation, forum participants moved to small-group discussion sessions in the cafeteria. In an effort to better understand community priorities in the budget development process, the district created worksheets that broke the education system into eight rough component categories—all of which play a valuable role in sustaining our quality schools.
Community members were asked to rank the categories in order of importance, imagining that they were the Board of Education and the budget-building process would be defined by their decisions: efforts would be made to preserve the highest-priority categories and the heaviest cuts would be made from the lower-priority categories.
All participants completed the exercise independently, after which each small group discussed their priorities and attempted to come to consensus on their two highest and two lowest ranked categories. While there was much debate throughout the exercise, clear trends of consensus emerged. The results are outlined in the summary report, along with a complete compilation of comments, drawn from individual worksheets, facilitator notes and the final wrap-up discussion.
Most agreed that the discussion highlighted the how difficult the decision making process will be as budget development moves forward. One group commented that it was like “asking if I want you to take my right arm or my left arm,” since all the components were valuable necessary to sustaining quality education.
This was intended as an introductory exercise to get a sense of community priorities early in the budget process. We hope you will join us as we continue budget development conversations, which will include more specific cost and impact details in the future.
Please email your budget questions