The Oak Ridge School Board held a work session last night, in preparation for a workshop with City Council tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6. An e-mail from City Manager Jim O’Connor states:
The purpose of the workshop is to have us get together so that City Council can better understand how the school budget is developed, what the expectations are and how the schools see the future funding needs
Cool. The schools’ budget timeline was approved in September, so it’s easy to discuss our process, which is remarkably open.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that there is concern both on the part of Board members and school administration that Council wants actual numbers earlier. There may be a disconnect between what has been said and what has been written, but the meeting should be approached as an opportunity for both to have a better understanding of the timeline and process.
I hope we can convey, calmly, that after six years of living within the restrictions of the City’s strategic plan, our reserves are depleted.Â I hope that we will hear that six years of austerity has paid off in growth (I know that it has), and that they can begin increasing funding for education — a vital component in the City’s future prosperity.
We will share with them our concern that no one yet knows how the State may change education funding, and our appreciation for the assistance given by their lobbyist, Bill Nolan.Â Hopefully, we will learn that they plan to make their budget process more open (as it used to be), rather than the less-transparent committee process that has marked recent years.
Most importantly, we will communicate how our budget is developed: beginning with zero, each expenditure component is added based upon documented need.Â City funding is the only source where we have any flexibility, and it is the Board’s responsibility to communicate the true need and justification for any request.
Wish us luck.