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King George School Board wants portion of $1M back

Superintendent says county requested a 3 percent surplus

The King George School Board is slated this week to discuss asking the Board of Supervisors for a portion of the more than $1 million revenue surplus that Superintendent Candace Brown did not spend in the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended June 30.
A list of items is expected to be distributed by Brown at the meeting on Wednesday, following our press time.   
At the previous meeting on Aug. 26, Brown said she wanted to provide supervisors with a list of one-time non-recurring items with cost estimates.
Brown said the items on the top of her list includes a handicapped accessible bus for $93,000 and a lawnmower for $9,000, along with an unspecified amount to provide a one-time payment to employees to pay the cost of their health insurance increase in the current fiscal year.
Brown wants to ask the county for an additional appropriation in the current fiscal year because at the last meeting, she told the School Board the division ended up with $1,259,131 left over at the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year.  
The division’s operating budget had $598,212 left, with an additional $470,449 surplus in a lottery escrow fund.  
Brown said the state’s General Assembly is allowing unspent lottery proceeds to be requested for appropriation back to the school division by Supervisors.

An additional $138,631 in federal grant funds is expected to be requested to be carried forward, along with a surplus of $51,839 in the cafeteria fund, which has a separate accounting.  
Brown had told the School Board that the county had last fall directed the School Board, along with county departments and constitutional offices, to end the year with a surplus of funds equaling 3 percent.
That interpretation was unique to Brown.  
The two memos from County Administrator Travis Quesenberry dated Dec. 17, 2008, that Brown pointed to don’t say to end up with a surplus.
They instead say to cut budgeted expenditures to avoid a revenue shortfall.  
But Brown told the School Board, “In other words, we were to end the year with a 3 percent surplus in our funds. We attempted to do that.”
Typically, for each of the last several years, the School Board has been called to task by Supervisors for “crying poor” throughout the year, especially at budget request time in the spring, then turning back hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding when the fiscal year ends.
They’ve done it again.  
But this time, Brown is saying they have a surplus because the county told them to.
After Brown provided the above interpretation for why they have a surplus this year on Aug. 26, she again complained about not getting enough funding.
“We tried to make sure that people had what they needed during the school year. But as you know, our last year’s budget — as has been for the last several years — was certainly not flush. We were able to end the year with some money, and I’ll have Mrs. Thompson explain that in a minute. But certainly in our operating budget, we did not achieve that 3 percent goal that they requested.”

Surplus no surprise
Brown last spring at a meeting on May 13 she was anticipating a surplus of $600,000 at that time, but intended to give the go-ahead to allow the schools to spend about $300,000 of the $600,000 remainder for materials and supplies for the upcoming school year.
Brown said at that May meeting she wanted to have a minimum of $236K left at the end of the year, noting that about $200,000 of the surplus would come from savings on fuel in the transportation category.
She said an additional $36,000 had also been budgeted for a principal and secretary to be hired in April to deal with issues for opening an intermediate school this fall.  But last December, the intermediate school plan was scrapped, so that funding was unspent.
While they were contemplating that surplus in May, later that month, the School Board asked the Board of Supervisors for an additional appropriation of $125,000 for that lawn mower, special education bus and playground equipment for Sealston Elementary School.
Supervisors nixed the request at a meeting in June, after getting a financial report indicating the School Board was projected to finish the fiscal year with a surplus of at least $590,257.  
Supervisors could not make sense of the School Board’s request since the secret has been out for awhile that the division was expected to again turn back big money.  
Supervisors instead suggested that Brown spend down the expected surplus.

Surplus explanation
Not counting federal grant balances of $138,631 and surplus of $51,839 in the cafeteria fund, the school division still ended the last fiscal year 2008-09 with $1,068,661 unspent.  
That’s calculated by adding $598,212 left in the division’s operating budget and an additional $470,449 surplus in a lottery escrow fund.
“That number was not final throughout the year because we cannot predict how much funding we will get through (the) lottery, so the final did not come in until June 30,” financial secretary Annette Thompson said.
Payne Kilbourn asked what the figure for the lottery proceeds was when the budget was adopted.
Thompson said she didn’t have the figure handy, but said the expected lottery amount fluctuated throughout the year, adding, “We just have to watch it.”
Dennis Paulsen reiterated, saying, “Can I just re-emphasize here?  This $470,449 that came in from the lottery escrow fund was really an unknown revenue to us until after the budget year even closed out.  So, this was above and beyond what we had actually budgeted for, so we got nearly a half a million at the end of the year that we now have to turn in to the county?
Chairperson Sherrie Allwine said, “Unanticipated, yes.”
Actually, the revenue budget for 2008-09 provided to The Journal in July 2008 at the beginning of that fiscal year indicated budgeted state lottery funding of $578,094 was anticipated.  
Paulsen pushed, asking, “How about the $598,212 in operating funds, what kind of things did we do to cut back?”
Thompson made no mention of cuts, but instead said they had significant savings in several areas.   She said the division’s health insurance came in low, along with a savings in fuel costs, since gas had been budgeted at $4 a gallon and the price had dropped.  
Thompson said miscellaneous revenue items, such as facilities rental, fees, and E-rate were higher, with Thompson saying those “all bring my revenue up.”
Brown added that Medicaid reimbursements were also a part of the surplus.  

Why hold back money?
Teachers and other members of the community are asking why some teacher editions of textbooks were not ordered, why it was necessary to put out a call to volunteers with trucks to help move boxes and other items from the former middle school building into the building currently designated as the county’s middle school (the former high school building on Dahlgren Road near the intersection of Route 3), in addition to asking volunteers to paint that school’s library.
Those questions need to be addressed to Brown.

Phyllis Cook,  Staff Reporter

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