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What level of detail does the budget committee approve? Does it have authority over staffing levels, salaries and labor contracts?

The recession and unanswered funding questions this year have heightened the attention paid to the role and responsibilities of the budget committee.

The budget committee is responsible for approving the budget document as submitted by the budget officer or the budget document as revised and prepared by the budget committee. The budget document as approved by the budget committee shall specify the ad valorem property tax amount or rate for all funds. ORS 294.406. Any line item or budget detail is open for discussion and can be changed by the committee. Discussion that involves details can help inform the committee and public about the final fund numbers obtained, but recommendations made by the budget committee are not binding on the school board beyond the fund amount. Even then the board can change the fund amount, they just need to follow a specified process if the change is greater than 10%. The budget committee approves the budget document including the fund dollar amounts and the tax rates to support it. The two are directly linked: The fund expenditure drives the calculation of the tax rate.

Budget committees have NO authority over staffing levels – overall, by employee group, by school, by program or anything else. Committee members certainly may voice their opinions but that is all they are. The only decision the budget committee is authorized to make is approval of the budget document and the tax rate to support the funds in that document. The committee cannot change union contracts or individual salary levels, either. However, the committee can examine and discuss contracts and pay scales to decide if the total budget figure is reasonable.

Once the budget and tax rates are approved by the budget committee, the budget goes to the board for a hearing and vote to adopt.

The school board is able to adjust line items by any amount and the total amount of each fund bottom line by the greater of 10 percent or $5,000 by making a resolution at a board meeting and without further steps (such as a hearing). The school board can move dollar amounts between line items within a fund at will, by a vote or resolution.

For changes during the year greater than 10 percent of the bottom line fund amount, the board must republish the budget summary and hold another hearing, usually called a supplemental budget hearing.

For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.