Pueblo District 60 has no published budget policy. A review of their public budgets suggests that they follow a systems approach to budgeting, and that as they begin their planning year, they begin with the previous year’s budget, which they amend as needed for immediate fiscal needs (Pueblo City Schools, 2018). Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to this model of budgeting is possible reactionary budgeting, where each crisis is dealt with on an annual basis, and long-term cultural shifts in program-planning and funding don’t necessarily take place (Schilling & Tomal, 2013, pp. 38-41). Pueblo is currently in reactive budgeting cycle, and as we move forward, our district leaders MUST begin planning for the future, not the immediate crisis.
Right now, the district board members, along with the superintendent of schools, develop the budget with advice from the district treasurers. Eight people move through a fiscal planning cycle on the behalf of the district. The budget is presented after its adoption each year at the final board meeting. Stakeholders may present concerns and complaints at the next public board meeting, but stakeholders’ concerns do not factor into the budgeting process. The district is required to present the budget for financial transparency; they are not required to change it because of community concerns. Their financial transparency is barely met by posting the budget under a link so far down their front page that most viewers would never find it; if our leaders truly wanted transparency and feedback, they would “create an online environment where budgets and emerging school plans can be easily accessed and readily shared” (Perry, 2013, p. 9). For the last three years, our district has experienced student loss to nearby districts and budget cuts to most budget items as a result of those losses; yet, we have not moved aggressively toward solutions. We have put fires out in our living room while the entire house is burning down around us.
To improve not only our budgeting process, but also our culture as a district, we need to seek input from responsible third parties, listen to their advice, and plan an ideology for our long-term budget, which will help us meet some necessary change goals. If we will not change, we will die. Our current climate of frustration, exhaustion, and disillusionment will only increase our student losses this year, and we have taken NO progressive steps toward fiscal change. Every levy proposed in the 2017 election in Colorado passed. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Our district did not propose a bond or a levy in 2017, and we have not begun to campaign for either one, which we desperately need to do, for the 2018 election. Especially after a significant tax CUT on the federal level, most Pueblo residents would invest in their own future as a community if the campaign were solid and the purpose for the taxes were valid; but we aren’t even asking for tax payers to take responsibility in the midst of our financial crisis. We’re continuing to plan exactly how we’ve been planning, which means we’re making a conscious decision right now to get the same results--and our FUTURE will move to the district next door if we cannot do better.