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ICYMI: District Finances Community Conversation

  • Community Conversations

Now in its tenth year, Lakota’s Community Conversation program gives school board members and administrators an opportunity to gather feedback from parents, staff, students and community members on a variety of topics. Each conversation in the school board listening program is led by a professional facilitator. Using both small and large-group discussions, participants share their thoughts, ideas and concerns.

While these meetings are not recorded, notes are taken and are posted on Lakota’s website. Most recently, the district hosted a community conversation about district finances.

Notes from these conversations, along with prior sessions, can be found on the Community conversation page of Lakota’s website.

 

Community Conversation: District Finances
Dec. 1, 2021

Why is it important for you to be here to talk about district finances?

  • We have young children in the district.
  • We want to understand how financial decisions are made and what things are looked at when making decisions.

Following the presentation about district finances, what does this mean to you? What are your reactions?

  • It’s amazing we are where we are compared to where we were 10 years ago. We are way better.
  • Not only are we doing better, we’re doing better without needing a levy.
  • School finances are incredibly confusing and school funding is messed up.
  • The forecast is a forecast. You can’t foretell emergencies - for example COVID pandemic in 2020. No one could have foretold that.
  • How will the continued growth in our area impact Lakota and is it taken into account?
  • The process that Lakota goes through with forecasting and the strategic plan is more than what many corporations do.
  • Do people think that the district isn’t transparent because they don’t understand finances?
  • We’re not accountants. What’s the process for making decisions? You can tell us that the money comes from here, but then what?
  • Would it help to diagram the process?
  • My biggest concern is that the expenses are outpacing the revenue and the forecast goes into the red in 2024.

What’s working when it comes to transparency? What methods of communication do you like?

  • Appreciate the mailers.
  • The mailers are expensive. Share them electronically.
  • In the Loop with the Supe every month is an opportunity to ask questions.

What new ideas for understanding finances do you have?

  • Build school finances 101 classes: virtual, recorded, Q&A
  • Clarify the “why” when decisions are made.
  • When the district compares itself to other districts, include why these schools are chosen.
  • How does this translate to my child’s class/school - zoom in instead of just showing the big picture - what’s the ground level impact?
  • I don’t always see the connection between the strategic plan and the budget. Does it relate to the budget? How do the numbers relate back to the plan?
  • Could we take one idea & storyboard the process: idea to budget to planning to implementation?
  • Some planning will be difficult to share - they’re ideas but not decisions. People might misinterpret this as not being transparent.
  • Master facilities plan: what’s happening with it? Where is the money going to come from?
  • Sometimes silence can be interpreted as “they’re holding out on us.”
  • Can you break down spending per pupil by different types of students? Special Ed, ESL, gifted, etc. This would tie it directly to student outcomes.
  • How do capital projects transfer into operating costs and what will that mean to the taxpayer?
  • How do we find ways to translate communication to all levels of engagement within the community? Those who are really involved? Those who only pay attention at election time. How does our communication compare to other communities?
  • A bond issue is different from an operating levy and people don’t understand this.
  • What’s being offered at Lakota that other districts don’t offer? How is the spending linked to the benefits that we offer?
  • Coming to the school board meetings, attending In the Loop with the Supe - the district is very transparent. However, I feel uneducated about the finances.
  • Is the money being spent on equipping the schools being used in the way they are intended? For example, is tech in innovation hubs being used?
  • Through COVID, teachers have learned that pen and paper aren’t necessarily needed. That could be translated to textbooks and other items to save money.
  • Sometimes there’s a perception in the community that you just need to get back to the way education used to be instead of understanding that education has changed.
  • We need to really promote our AP & CCP benefits & how it can save families money.

What are your big questions and concerns?

  • There is so much misinformation and rumors in the community; most people aren’t going to sit through a self-guided class on school finances. Why is there a contingent of the public that keeps saying we’re in trouble?
  • How is the school sharing this information with the community?
  • How do we educate the community?

What did this 90 minutes mean to you?

  • People actually want to get involved because they came tonight.
  • It’s great that all sides and concerns have been vocalized.
  • We have three Lakota grads and I want the district to continue being great.
  • Rumors are infectious so this conversation was great to clarify misinformation
  • Community Conversations
  • Finance