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Re: All DPL candidates: Debian assets

Hi Steve,

On 25/03/14 at 00:57 -0700, Steve Langasek wrote:
> (To Lucas) Why should Debian need to hold a reserve with its TOs to fully
> fund a DebConf for which fundraising has failed?  I believe the operating
> principle is that the DebConf organization should never spend money that it
> doesn't already have - i.e., never more than the sum of confirmed DebConf
> sponsorship plus money from Debian's general fund that the DPL has approved
> (with the possibility, but not the guarantee, that it will be returned at
> the end of the conference).  Do you disagree with this principle? If so -
> why, and what are the criteria you would use to decide a DebConf has
> "failed" at fundraising and dip into these reserves?  If not - why does
> Debian need to worry about reserves to cover DebConf?
> (To both) What kinds of unexpected expenses do you think Debian should keep
> funds available to cover?  What do you think is the appropriate level of
> cash reserves for the project to hold, and why?
> > We need some amount of savings to care for all the unexpected problems
> > that could happen, and at the same time, we need to spend money where
> > needed to support Debian's goals.
> > The really hard problem is to find a good balance between saving money
> > for the unexpected, and spending more money. We need to be careful with
> > that, and build a good understanding of Debian's historical needs so
> > that we can spend more money if needed without jeopardizing the future.
> > So, yeah, it seems that Neil and I disagree on that, because I don't
> > think that it's as simple as 'our donations should be spent'.
> (To both) Management of Debian's assets is one of the key duties of the DPL.
> What principles guide you in deciding how to balance the use of Debian's
> assets (infrastructure, DebConf, other Debian sprints, other expenses)?  If
> elected, what will you do to ensure transparency to the project about how
> Debian money is being spent, and how these expenses affect our overall cash
> reserves?

(I'm answering globally, but I'm trying to cover all questions)

One thing I was quite surprised to discover when I became DPL is the lack
of visibility on Debian's assets. For example, we have no good visibility
of incomes and expenses on the Debian earmark at SPI, besides the monthly
treasurer's reports sent to SPI mailing lists (and those reports have been
lagging a bit: the last one was for October, 2013).

What I am proposing in my platform (3.3.1) is to build an overview of
Debian's incomes and expenses, to make it easier to adjust future expenses
to what we know we can afford based on recent history. Quite likely, that
will mean that we are actually able to spend more for sprints, DebConf, or
infrastructure, because we might currently be too careful due to a lack of
overview of Debian's finances.

However, the main guiding principle / litmus test when deciding about
expenses should remain the same: would our donors agree that this is good
use of their donated money, i.e. does that use of money really helps us
move towards Debian's goals?

Now, DebConf. A successful DebConf is very important to Debian. When
discussing the DebConf budget, the DebConf organizers, the chairs and the
DPL are actually on the same side, trying to answer a difficult question:
how can we build a balanced budget that allows a successful DebConf?
I think that the good way to visualize the DebConf budget is as a
temporary fork of the Debian budget, with quite a lot of pre-approvals.
DebConf is not a separate organization, and Debian will always cover the
deficits (if any) of DebConf. That's why it is so important that we all
agree on a budget early during DebConf organization, something we have
not been doing yet this year, unfortunately.

(more minor points:)
Regarding transparency, I will continue to list approved expenses in the
monthly reports.
Regarding the appropriate level of cash reserves, I hope that we will have
an answer to that question soon, thanks to the work described above.


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