Nov 20 2010

A Call to Limit Citizens’ Advisory Committee Input

Differing views have arisen regarding the proper scope of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) reports and the process for generating them.  (CAC Members)  Following the resignation of CAC members Ad Brugger, Cathie Geddeis, and Eileen Ruby in September, on October 27th Ruby asked that the Board of Education limit the scope and charge of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee in two ways.

First, by limiting the basis for its recommendations on the amount of Measure B parcel tax assessment to a simple determination of “whether the will of the voters is being met.”  Second, by limiting its future research and data to specific requests confirmed by a formal vote of the Board of Education.  Both Ruby and another speaker, Amal Small, chose to characterize the CAC as acting as a “shadow board.”

During discussion, Board Members noted that the research and data provided by the CAC has been of great value to the Board and denied it acted  as a “shadow board.”  However,  the Board indicated it may discuss the Charge of the Committee at a future hearing before advertising for 3 new members.  Any new limitations on the Committee’s role would require a vote by the Board of Education to change the current CAC Charge adopted on May 27, 2009.

Board discussion pointed out a vote on requests for supplemental information and research from the CAC would direct the flow of issues from the Board to the Committee, rather than vice versa.  Board Member June Monach raised the possibility of eliminating the Committee’s current charge to make “evaluations and recommendations on specific budgetary or programmatic questions.”  Board Members Martha Jones and Roy Tolles stated they perceived the CAC’s role as recommending whether to renew and/or increase parcel tax levies.  Ray Gadbois submitted similar views via a letter.

Board Members did not raise the question of whether limitations might hamper the CAC’s ability to provide a citizen or taxpayer perspective to the District, nor whether restricting data and research might inadvertently create the appearance of influencing policy. Currently, the CAC requests input from the Board regarding research and data which the Board might find useful, but its fact-finding is not restricted to these requests.

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee was created by the passage of Measures B and E in June, 2009.  The measures enacted a Citizens’ Committee along with parcel taxes to provide an opportunity for citizen input to the Board of Education.  Details: Citizens’ Advisory Committee webpage

The Budgetary Advisory Committee Compared

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) is distinct and unrelated to the Budgetary Advisory Committee (BAC),  although 2 members of the BAC committee serve on the CAC.  Members of the Budgetary Advisory Committee are selected by School Superintendent Bonnie Hubbard, rather than by the Board of Education, which selects CAC members. The BAC’s purpose is to “review the financial health of the District’s General Fund budget, share information with constituent groups, and make recommendations for Board consideration in the budget development process”.  The BAC’s authority, which appears to include making budget recommendations to the Board of Education, is described as “under the direction of the Superintendent,” rather than established through a vote of the citizens.  Its 2010 meeting schedule is available online, however, a member roster has not yet been posted.  Details: Budget Advisory Committee information.

Materials Available: Board packet; Video (items VI C); Informational summary of portions of the October 27th meeting prepared by School Board Member June Monarch.

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