The members of an ad hoc budget advisory committee believe the Berkeley Unified School District should establish a standing group to provide community input on financial issues facing the district.
“The goal is to go outside to draw on expertise that isn’t existing in the district,” Mary Friedman, a member of the ad hoc group and executive director of the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, said during last week’s meeting of the advisory committee.
The school board formed the ad hoc Blue Ribbon Resources Advisory Committee earlier this year, with the mandate of offering recommendations on new revenue sources or budget restructuring options for the financially strapped district.
The group, however, was unable to offer any recommendations primarily because of time constraints; the group’s first meeting was held in late February, and the board was to receive a report from the committee in early May. Committee members said they could not make well-advised recommendations based on the tight schedule and on budget information that often was difficult to interpret.
But they felt a standing committee could develop the expertise and familiarity with the budget necessary to make such recommendations.
The exact wording of the mandate for the new committee is still in the works, but the group’s focus would be on offering input, ideas and feedback on the district’s budget.
The proposal placed before the advisory committee last week also advocated that the new committee be responsible for conducting the annual budget workshops for the community, in cooperation with district staff.
The structure of the new committee was debated for some time, until committee member Nancy Riddle noted that the school board already has a policy in place for Board Advisory Committees. That policy is designed to ensure, among other things, broad community representation and accountability to the school board.
“It would be unique to refer back to work already done,” Friedman quipped.
A subcommittee is refining the mandate for the new group, and it will be presented by the committee to the school board in the coming weeks.