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School budget still projecting deficits

School budget still projecting deficits

The King George Board of Supervisors last week reviewed monthly financial reports for the School board for the current year with actual figures plugged in through the end of January and projected expenditures used for the remainder of the 2011-12 fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

The finance report on Feb. 21 was provided by Donita Harper, King George’s deputy county administrator and director of finance.


Supervisors were told that the current projection for the School Board’s operating budget indicates it will be overspent by $340,479 at the end of the fiscal year.
Likewise, Supervisors were told the School Board’s Cafeteria Fund is projecting a year-end deficit of $156,322.

Whether that is an accurate and complete financial picture for both funds is unclear.

STATUS OF 2011-12 BUDGET FOR CURRENT YEAR
The School Board approved the implementation of 2-percent raises for all contracted employees earlier this month on Feb. 13, retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.

That took place following a review of the cuts and adjustments made to lower the bottom line for the current year’s budget. At that School Board meeting, School Board chairman Mike Rose indicated that after various changes and corrections had been made to the current year’s proposed expenditures in the general fund, the division was estimating a current shortfall of only $29,798.

He also reminded his colleagues that the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 31 had promised an additional allocation, if necessary, later this spring. At that joint meeting, Supervisors pledged to cover a potential shortfall by infusing up to $150,000 into the current year’s School Board’s allocation, so the two-percent raises could be enacted.

The adjustments and corrections to the current year’s budget have yet to be communicated to the county in such a way that will enable the Board of Supervisors to take action to formally amend the School Board’s budget.

It’s not clear when all of those alignments will be requested and made.  

BUDGET AMENDMENTS REQUESTED LAST MONTH
The School Board has so far requested one sizeable budget amendment that would add $622,206 to the amount of federal grant revenue it expects to receive.

That budget amendment request was approved by the School Board on Jan. 13. But it has yet to be presented to Supervisors to amend the School Board budget.

It’s not clear from the finance reports whether those revenue amounts have already come in or are planned for future reimbursement to the division.

At last week’s meeting, Harper mentioned the planned budget amendment, but did not give details or hint when it would be on their agenda for action, only saying, “We will be coming before you to appropriate some additional federal revenue that was not budgeted.”

When the previous finance reports were last reviewed a month ago, Supervisors had directed Harper to get together with the division’s interim superintendent, Stanley Jones, to align budget figures that would agree for a preliminary assessment of year-end projections.

At last month’s meeting on Jan. 17, Harper assured Supervisors that would happen, saying, “I have offered and they have accepted, to go over and help them work on their projections for future months.”

But those projections have changed little, with less than a $700 difference in the projected deficit from last month to this month.

Without amendments to the budget to reflect amended revenues and current encumbrances, it will remain unclear whether the current year’s School Board budget is in danger of being overspent, or whether it could again have a surplus.

CAFETERIA FUND
Of the Cafeteria Fund’s projected deficit of $156,322, Harper said that was due to Cafeteria revenues currently coming in less than had been budgeted.

She added, “Usually March is a big month for them. So, we’ll see how things go in March.”

Harper added, “The interim superintendent has seen these projections.”

Supervisor Joe Grzeika asked, “When you discuss this with the superintendent, does he understand where this is, and he’s got some issues that he has to work to correct this?” 

Grzeika added, “Because this Cafeteria Fund is supposed to be self-sufficient. I don’t know what he does at the end of the year.”

Harper said, “I’ll make it a point to discuss it again with him next month.” She added, “I don’t know that he’s focused on the Cafeteria, but I’ll make sure.”

Supervisor Dale Sisson noted, “Either way, it adds up to a $500,000 problem when you talk about their general fund, essentially combined with the cafeteria fund’s issue. So it would require some significant attention.”

The Cafeteria Fund budget may also require some budget amendments, if there are vacant positions or significant sources of income not currently included in the approved budget.

In addition, the audit of the Cafeteria Fund for 2010-11 appears to indicate that it banked a surplus of $109,287 at the end of last June 2011. The Cafeteria Fund is one that can carry forward any unspent balances, unlike the School Board operating budget.

Harper has made no mention of the 2010-11 surplus in the Cafeteria Fund during her financial reports to supervisors. And it is unknown whether any of the surplus amount has been transferred during the current fiscal year into the current year’s food service budget or to the operating budget.

Anything is possible with the wide latitude that former superintendent Candace Brown exercised regarding money matters during her tenure. Brown remained as superintendent for the first half of this fiscal year, retiring at the end of December 2011.

Phyllis Cook

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