- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 May 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 04 May 2011 00:00
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There is a budget dispute between King George School Superintendent Candace Brown and King George County Administrator Travis Quesenberry that has escalated to the level of the School Board and the Board of Supervisors, though it appears that school officials had tried to keep the dispute behind the scenes.
It’s about $249,000 that the School Board and Brown claim should not have been deducted from its budget proposal to reflect a decrease in health insurance costs for the School Board.
The dispute came to light at last Friday’s county meeting where supervisors unanimously approved the 2011-12 budget, with comments about it by
In the days prior to the April 29 meeting, Brown had tried to make a case to Quesenberry that about half of the $507,315 she had wrongly estimated for a 12 percent increase in health insurance should be deducted from the budget proposal.
As it happened, after the school budget request was voted on Feb. 23 and sent to the county, Brown had publicly announced on March 28 that instead of a 12 percent increase, insurance costs instead would drop by 10 percent, saving the School Board $205,436, instead of costing it an additional $507,315.
Members of the School Board are not fully informed about school division finances. That has been demonstrated at various times including at that March 28 meeting, when Rick Randall talked about the proportion of employee health insurance costs paid by the School Board.
Randall stated, “We pick up 50 percent — right?” Brown replied, “We pick up varying amounts depending upon the plan. We pick anywhere from the highest is 90 percent, down to the lowest is 59 percent.”
COUNTY NOT CONVINCED
The $249,000 dispute, which Renee Parker this week called a “glitch,” had apparently been discussed by Brown with School Board members at unknown non-public occasions.
The first time it was publicly mentioned at a School Board meeting was this week on May 2.
But supervisors started hearing about it in the 10 days between their budget public hearing on April 19 and April 29 when the budget was adopted.
According to an April 26 synopsis of communications between himself and Brown that Quesenberry sent to supervisors, Brown decided that the amount that was deducted for a decrease in health insurance costs was too high.
Brown tried to convince Quesenberry that the $507,315 figure estimated as a 12 percent increase also included paying the employees’ share of that cost increase. She wanted $249,000 added back into the School Board’s 2011-12 budget prior to county adoption.
Brown attended the April 19 public hearing, along with finance assistant Wilma Ward, but both sat mum, which supervisors noticed.
Instead, some School Board members called supervisors in the days following the hearing.
Dennis Paulsen said this week he had called all of the supervisors, though neither he nor any School Board member had attended the hearing.
Neither Quesenberry nor supervisors were convinced.
Parker, who does not appear to understand the role of elected representatives in their performance of the public’s business, this week was incredulous, stating, “In addition to emails and phone calls, she was supposed to speak up at a public hearing?!”
SUPERVISORS NOT CONVINCED
Cedell Brooks brought up the topic prior to budget adoption last Friday, saying, “I’m amazed that the superintendent was at the public hearing and sat up against the wall and didn’t say anything about any of this stuff. And that would have been the time then, if there was some issue. She should have gotten up and addressed it so that we could have dealt with that. But nobody said anything at the public hearing. And then we got this cadre of emails over a period of time, back and forth about what they did have and what they didn’t have and whether a mistake was made or if there was a mistake. I’m just amazed that nobody brought it up publicly when they were here at the public hearing. And nobody was here from the School Board either.”
John LoBuglio also commented, saying, “I do agree with what Mr. Brooks said that Superintendent Brown was here sitting against the wall and I would have expected her to have gotten up and mentioned something about that.”
He added, “And I’m also a little worried that the School Board may not follow the recommendations that we put forward, the bonuses and the pay increases to match what we’re giving county employees. If there’s any discrepancy there, I see it as a negative impact to county employees’ morale.”
Joe Grzeika stated, “I went through that chain of emails and data and documentation, and the numbers and changes that we were provided by the School Board, and so I’m comfortable with the budget that we have. And I also am somewhat confused as to why we had two members from the school system in the audience, and if there was an issue, it surely should have been raised during the public hearing.”
James Mullen said he agreed, adding about the behind-the-scenes request for $249,000, “I’m not sure what that funding is intended for. I’ve got my suspicions, but I don’t know. So I agree.”
BROWN STATED REVERSE AT BUDGET MEETING
Some School Board members may believe there’s a mistake or a glitch, but if so, they have forgotten what Brown told them at a budget meeting on Jan. 31. A little over seven minutes into the video recording of that meeting where Brown and the School Board had their budget binders in front of them, they talked about trying to find $522,994 for the cost of full-year raises of 2 percent.
While exploring possible costs for health insurance, Brown states, “Can I direct you to page 24 in the appendix? You have insurance costs there, what it would actually cost you based on different increases, and what we currently have. So you can see based on the different percents what the different increases to us would be. And that’s with the employees picking up their increase and the School Board picking up its increase.”
The page 24 indicates health insurance cost increases based on varying percentages, with $507,315 indicated as the increase for the school system.