Fremont Dist. 79 earns national budget award
He used to be a pilot, but now Mike Tanner is the Director of Business Services at Fremont School District 79 and was intrumental in winning an award for the district's budget. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 14, 2013 2:40PM
MUNDELEIN — For the first time, Fremont School District 79 earned a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in school budgeting.
The Association of School Business Officials International grants the meritorious budget award to only nine percent of school districts nationwide. Fremont has won the award for their 2012-13 budget after applying for it unsuccessfully in the two preceding fiscal years.
The road to the award has been laborious, District 79 business services Director Mike Tanner said. Tanner said he spent approximately 100 hours of his personal time on the project.
“Now that I’ve cracked the code, I hope applications in subsequent years will require approximately half the time of the original project,” he said.
To be considered for the award, the district must meet a long list of stringent criteria and provide extensive documentation. That’s because school finance is very complex, said Tanner.
“You have money coming in from so many different sources and going to so many different things.”
Tanner should know. The former U.S. Air Force and commercial airline pilot worked at three other school districts before coming to Fremont. He said that although it may seem like a strange career switch, both jobs have required focus in situations where there are many things to keep track of simultaneously.
Although school budgets are not simple, Tanner said one of the goals of applying for the award was to make the district’s finances easily understandable and transparent to the public. Ninety-three percent of Fremont’s $30 million budget comes from local property taxes and Tanner said residents making such a huge investment should know exactly what their money does.
Because the information submitted for the award encompasses more than just financials, Tanner said it provides a complete picture of Fremont’s direction.
“It’s a road map for the entire district,” he said.
In addition, Tanner said having such a robust package of information is helpful in negotiating with the district’s unionized teachers who comprise a large chunk of the 400 employees on the payroll. Having a clear financial picture on the table contributes to credibility.
Tanner said the hope is that members of the community whose taxes fund the schools will also come to view the district positively.
“We’ve laid things out in plain English,” he said. “There are a lot of moving pieces, but none of the pieces individually are that complicated.”
District Superintendent Jill Gildea said Tanner deserves accolades for Fremont’s win.
“We’re especially proud of Mr. Tanner’s work,” she said in a statement. “He has certainly brought an elite level of sophistication in the use of data in making the most effective educational decisions for the benefit of our students, families, and the community we serve.”
•To learn more about the Fremont School District 79 budget, visit www.fsd79.org/domain/25.