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Friday, August 22, 2008

Davis Joint Unified School District Expenditures

The Vanguard has received data from the Davis Joint Unified School district that examines district general fund expenditures. We have charts showing the historical spending by specific activity area from 2003 through next year. Over this time period, the district consistently spends of 80% of the budget on direct student support. The next largest line item is operations which keep school sites clean, safe and operational. With operations added to direct student support, the district spends over 90% of the budget on operating schools and teaching students.

The district only spends roughly 7% of its general fund budget on administration. That percentage has actually gone down slightly over the seven year period of time we track. In raw numbers, spending on administration rose by only a slight amount from $4.5 million to $5.2 million.

During the entire period, total spending rose from $59 million to $73 million. Of that $14 million increase over a seven year period, $13 million of that spending was in the classroom and $10 million went to teachers, aides, and books. Compare that small increase in cost to the rapid increase in Davis City expenditures on salary over a similar period which was upwards of $26 million in total compensation.

The first chart shows the spending broken down by category both in dollars and percentages of the total budget.

Next a pie chart shows the percentage breakdown by category.

Next we see the trendline of spending broken down by category which shows both the magnitude of teacher spending compared to other categories and also the rate of increase for teacher spending compared to the other categories.

Next the same trendline except the categories are broken down into classroom spending and non-classroom spending compared with total spending.

Finally two charts which show the same categories except broken down by percentage of the budget--here again you see relative stability in the categories across time.


Why are we looking only at general fund expenditures? The budget crisis occurring is a general fund budget crisis rather than a facilities fund budget crisis. For all of the talk of fiscal mismanagement by critics of the school district, the expenditure figures look relatively healthy. The majority of funding goes directly into the classroom. The percentage that goes to administration is small at around 7%.

A second point that needs to be made is that while teachers got a healthy pay increase a couple of years ago, overall, their salaries have not gone up by that much. If you compare teacher salaries to city employee salaries, particular fire salaries, they not only have gone up by nearly two-thirds less in percentage terms, but in absolute terms they are well below those in city government.

In other words, one can really not argue that the budget crisis for the school district was created by runaway spending. On the contrary, the roughly 24% budget increase in spending roughly mirrors that of inflation and does not keep pace with rising costs of housing and living in Davis. Nor does it keep pace with the astronomical rise of salaries in other sectors.

If one is looking for reasons to vote against the parcel tax, irresponsible spending increases by the school district does not appear to be one of them. Cuts to the budget, even if dispersed equitably across categories would necessarily have to more heavily impact money going directly into the classroom, toward core curriculum programs.

The bottom line here is that the public will have a choice--they can continue the high level of education in the district by supporting the parcel tax at an additional $120 per year or they can face cutting teachers and programs in the district. To me, that choice is very clear.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting