Passing the budget without reading it?

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The Chester County School Board had a public hearing and a final reading of the upcoming school year budget Monday. The budget actually passed.

But (and it’s a big “But”) …

But the board passed the budget without its members ever being given a budget — without reading that budget.

Yes, you read that right. We’ve been doing this for a long time and have never seen a board pass the budget without getting or reading a line item by line item budget.

It’s bad that the district’s interim administration has presented this level of information to the board members.

It is disastrous that no board members spoke up and questioned this ­— until Monday night. We appreciate Trustee Jim Stroman raising this concern, and Trustee Denise Lawson going along with his motion to wait to pass the budget until all the members have been provided a line-item budget.

That motion failed. It is incomprehensible that it failed. It’s mind boggling that it took so long for the motion to even be made.

We have a copy of what the board was provided. It looks like a PowerPoint presentation, not a budget. This document would be an excellent tool to help the board understand its budget, if members had been presented a budget to go along with it.

This is not a school district budget like we are used to seeing. But the worst thing is, this is not a budget like this board is used to seeing.

The board, in the past, has actually been given very detailed budget information. In prior years, the budgets we have gotten at meetings have been detailed spreadsheets. We would describe them as “department level” budgets, in which you could see how much was going to be spent at each school. Some even had footnotes explaining extreme deviations from prior years.

The school budget, in the past, has been an instrument that even those not versed in the intricacies of school finance could use to follow along and make important decisions.

And it was broken down to the school level. The PowerPoint is a nice, district-level instrument. But it’s not a budget.

The worst part is, we shouldn’t be making this argument now, at this stage, after the budget has gotten final approval. The board should be screaming. It runs the district. All its members should know better. They should have demanded a real budget, much earlier.

The board can still make this right. It has the rest of this month and the entire month of June to get a real budget, review it thoroughly and pass it.

If they do not do that, the next step is yours. The public can’t hold the superintendent or the finance office responsible. Voters can hold the board responsible.

Four seats will be open on the board in the November General Election. Voters need to remember this grievous abrogation of the board’s main duty and vote accordingly.