If CPS spends money and no one notices...
At last night's Cincinnati school board public hearing called to discuss Superintendent Rosa Blackwell's proposed $445 million budget for next year, just two people who aren't on the CPS payroll or the board came.
One of them was me, a reporter who routinely attends as part of my job. The other was Jim Berry, an Over-the-Rhine resident who's a frequent schools volunteer and member of the joint CPS-community budget commission. So depending on your definition, there's between two and zero bona fide members of the "public" at the public meeting.
This very poorly attended meeting came 72 days after voters approved a 7.89-mill property tax hike for CPS, which will raise annual taxes by $233 per $100,000 of property value, beginning next January. Last night specifically, board members and Blackwell were making plans to spend about $18.7 million worth of those new taxes.
The next public hearing on the budget is June 12, and they'll probably vote on the budget June 23. Maybe better weather then will bring out a crowd.
UPDATE: Board member Melanie Bates called today, claiming the real problem isn't lack of interest, but a flawed method for soliciting input. For whatever reason, the old-fashioned hearing process just doesn't work for people, and the district hasn't bothered to adapt.
Her ideas? Giving principals finance training to host school-level hearings, more Web-based public surveys and off-site board meetings.
"We're paying someone $82,000 a year to manage community engagement," she said, referring to Dawn Grady, CPS coordinator of community engagement. "We ought to have the capacity to figure this out." (Grady, who actually makes $84,924, didn't immediately return a call for comment.)
Of course, Bates and her six colleagues earn a $125 per-meeting stipend, too. Hardly big money, but that doesn't exactly discourage calling meetings no one cares about.