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HomeTopicsEducationWatchdog: Why Isn't Nassau County School Board Budget Process Transparent?

Watchdog: Why Isn’t Nassau County School Board Budget Process Transparent?

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By Rich Lamken

July 21, 2022. 

Ed note: Rich Lamken (photo above) leads the Common Sense School team seeking to ensure that our schools are safe for our kids, free from indoctrination, and efficient in spending to give the kids the best education possible.  It seems that most of the budget process happens away from the citizens until it is essentially done and voted on.  Why not let us in earlier in the process?

The problem is that it’s not true

The News Leader accurately quotes the NCSB (Nassau County School Board) attorney, Brett Seger regarding the proposed Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC), speaking at the July 19th School Board Meeting, “There’s no more ability to contribute to the process through an advisory committee than there is available currently, which is the workshops, the materials, those kind of things”.

The problem is that it’s simply not true. I have been pushing for the CBAC in NCSD for months. I have four qualified citizens willing to serve, two with extensive school finance experience. I took exception to his statement in an email to the School Board the following morning.

Here’s an excerpt from my email that defines the CBAC, “Budget Advisory Committees are created for the purposes of making recommendations to the School Board regarding the School District’s annual budget and any policies and practices that may be relevant to the budgeting process.

Budget Advisory Committees have the following responsibilities:

  • Advise the School Board on the degree to which the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget supports best fiscal practices and the School Board’s priorities.
  • Make recommendations to the School Board on policies and practices related to the presentation and preparation and execution of the annual budget.”
  • They typically commence their work in January for a Budget cycle that concludes in August or early September. The CBAC is there as the process begins.

Contrast this process with what’s currently happening in NCSD. They held their first Budget workshop on Tuesday, July 19th. Despite several requests from me for the “Budget Book” to review prior to the meeting, which was provided to the School Board days earlier, it was not available for me to review until 9:00 am, the morning of the meeting. It took a request the day of the meeting to get it posted online. It’s 366 pages long. Additionally, a new document, to be discussed at the workshop, was handed to me at the beginning of the workshop. I was also given a copy of the “completed Budget” which the School Board approved for advertising. 10.6% increase in spending, 42 additional positions added.

Mr. Steger, there’s nothing “Advisory” about being told what the District is going to spend. We deserve a seat at the table at the beginning of the budget process, not when it’s virtually completed.

Call to Action

The creation of a CBAC is on the agenda for the next School Board meeting, next Thursday, July 28th. Nassau County Citizens, let the Board Chair, Donna Martin, know you support the creation of the CBAC. Her email is [email protected].

Rich Lamken is retired and lives with his wife, Meg in Fernandina Beach. He is a retired Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Human Resources/Technology. He is the Schools Division Lead of Common-Sense, Fernandina Beach and the President of the Baptist Nassau Hospital Auxiliary.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.

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