Consider the situation in the Arlington, Texas school district.
In June 2017, the Arlington school board adopted a 2017-18 budget that included an operating deficit of $18.6 million dollars, according to an article published by Star-Telegraph.com.
Despite that serious budget shortfall, the board voted to give all employees a 2.25 percent salary increase, which would cost the district an extra $8.6 million, and create 22 new staff positions, costing about $1.1 million, the news service reported.
The article said nothing about efforts to comb the district budget for types of spending that could be eliminated, to save precious dollars.
One area might be airline travel.
In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Arlington district spent an eye-opening $187,989.66 on airline costs, according to documents provided by the district through a public information request
That money was spent in 222 separate transactions, for an average of $848.80 per transaction.
American Airlines got most of the district’s considerable business. There were 181 transactions, totaling $171,323.71, for an average of $952.06 per transaction.
Two individual charges with American Airlines were particularly large – $23,404.72 on May 19, 2017 and $15,303 on June 19, 2017.
What was all the travel for? Were the trips all connected to events or projects that had a direct benefit for students? Can school district officials clearly explain and illustrate the benefits?
Was air travel necessary for all of the trips? If so, did the school district make an effort to book the least expensive flights they could find? Does the district take full advantage of its frequent flyer miles?
Is expensive air travel an established tradition in the district – perhaps a type of spending that hasn’t been closely inspected, scrutinized or questioned in a while?
Those are the types of questions that concerned residents and reporters should be asking, particularly in a school district with such a big budget deficit.