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County budget surplus projected; School Board deficits looming

The King George Board of Supervisors heard good news and bad news at last week’s meeting on March 19 when reviewing monthly financial reports for 2012-13 provided by Donita Harper, director of finance and deputy county administrator.

First the good news:  Harper pointed out that the county is projecting a year-end surplus of over $400,000, though it could change between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

That is largely due to tight reins held by Travis Quesenberry, county administrator, on spending, including some positions in the budget that are unfilled. There is also more revenue than budgeted, from several sources, due to conservative estimating by Harper.

SCHOOL BOARD
Now the bad news:  Moving on to the School Board’s numbers for the current year, Harper also pointed out, as she has in previous months, that the School Board will be showing deficits due to under-budgeting for new Virginia Retirement System (VRS) costs that went into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year.

That was brought home to Supervisors last week when they saw the beginning of that deficit beginning to appear, with a $24,000 deficit indicated. Harper said the deficit amount could be as high as $500,000.

When the budget was approved in the end of April 2012 for the current fiscal year, 2012-13, an effort was made to take into account last-minute changes in state legislation to address payments to the Virginia Retirement System for all employees, including varying percentage amounts on behalf of county employees, Constitutional employees and school employees.
At the time, Quesenberry said that costs for VRS were still being sorted out and higher adjustments to the budget could be needed in upcoming months, adding his comment indicating that $800,000 would be a worst-case scenario.

Last week, he reminded the board of that discussion that took place nearly a year ago, noting that when the county adopted its budget and the figure for schools, the amount for the division was not calculated high enough to cover the actual new VRS costs. They knew that at the time, but were not sure of the calculation needed.

It was instead decided to address it later during the fiscal year.  ‘Later’ is now beginning to show up.

Harper told Supervisors last week, “As you will see over the next few months that deficit is going to grow, as they start spending more funds.”

Chairman Dale Sisson has been suggesting all along during monthly financial reports that when the amount is known, it needs to be communicated to Supervisors.

Last week he said again, “They should be talking with us.” Harper said she’s discussed it with division Superintendent Rob Benson, adding that he is expected to start providing his own projections for the monthly financial reports.

Joe Grzeika suggested that Harper project the unbudgeted VRS costs, adding that Benson should also be tasked to estimate the amounts to cover that.

Sisson stated, “You need to get those numbers back from the School Board as soon as they are available.”

Grzeika added, “And we still want some rigor on the expenditures. Just because we’re going to cover it doesn’t mean to just go whole hog on everything else.” Sisson agreed, saying, “It can’t be a one-sided solution. It’s got to be a joint solution.”
Regarding the current-year budget reports for the School Board, Harper also indicated that she had adjusted projected revenue figures for the division to correspond to an ADM of 4,102, which is the current number. The budget had been based on a lower ADM of 4,089. She said the ADM number would be finalized on March 31.

The deficit amount also has implications for next year’s School Board budgeting.

Supervisors are proposing to provide $1 million more in local funds to the School Board for 2013-14 when compared to the current year’s adopted budget.

But if the 2012-13 adopted budget amount for schools is expected to get additional amendments to appropriate as much as $500,000 more for the current fiscal year, that is a similar amount for VRS that is carried forward for as cost in the next fiscal year.

That makes the $1 million more in local funding (compared to the existing adopted school budget) proposed for next year seem to actually provide a lot less leeway in budgeting by Benson and the School Board.

That means it will be another tight budget year for King George, both for the county and the school division.

Phyllis Cook

 

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