Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Conspiracy on Budget Hearing

School Business Administrator/Board Secretary Gary Ottmann recently began an explanation of the 2008-09 budget process by saying it is "no sinister plot" that the March 25 public hearing will fall during Easter break.

The budget schedule is mandated by the state, and the date of Easter, based on lunar cycles, can vary considerably. Click here for an explanation from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

The school board met March 4 to vote on preliminary budget adoption. On March 11, Ottmann presented refined figures based on talks with school staff and administrators. Next week, the budget will be discussed at the March 18 business meeting and a March 19 budget workshop. The March 25 public hearing is the last stop before the budget goes on the April 15 ballot.

This year's budget process is unique in that the state has mandated a 4 percent increase in the local school tax levy. Ever since 1992, Plainfield property owners have had to come up with just $17,683,906 to support the cost of schools, while the state most recently kicked in aid to the tune of $99 million.

Now the state wants the district to pay more toward a "fair share" and is mandating a 4 percent increase in the local tax levy - one that residents can't vote down on April 15. The district faces a $5,781,500 shortfall, the reason for projected cuts affecting administrators, teachers and other staff for the 2008-09 school year.

Even if parents will be away on spring break, this week affords time to learn more and have a say on the budget. Tuesday's meeting is 7 p.m. at Barlow School and Wednesday's meeting is 7 p.m. in the Plainfield High School library.

Regarding Easter, March 23 is the earliest date in a long time, according to online sources. The date is based on an algorithm related to cycles of the moon. There is a lot of information on the holiday in general that is worth looking up and discussing with the family, whatever one's beliefs or non-beliefs. On the secular side, The Seattle Times will publish results of its "Peeps" contest on March 16. The Washington Post also holds such a contest, in which people arrange the popular marshmallow creatures in tableaux. Click here for the WP's 2007 winners.

--Bernice Paglia


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