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School Board projected to end fiscal year 2011-12 with small shortfall

The King George School Board is projected to come up short on its budget’s bottom line for the 2011-12 fiscal year that ended on June 30. The latest financial report from the county is currently projecting a shortfall of $49,658. 

The financial projection from the county’s finance department was made available this week late on Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 7 (following our press time). 

The figures are not yet final, as there is a 60-day accrual for both expenditures and revenues. Figures will not be final until the books are audited. 

Supervisors are expected to comment on the projected shortfall at this week’s meeting, but are not anticipated to call for anyone’s head or make charges of malfeasance. 

That was what happened the last time there was an actual School Board shortfall more than 20 years ago. (See below for a reminiscent look-back.)

Judging from what they’ve said at various meetings earlier this year on the potential for the School Board’s overspending its appropriations, Supervisors’ reactions are expected to be gentler than 20+ years ago. 

They are likely to be along the lines of again calling for the School Board to actually increase its own monitoring of its budget and not merely wait for the county finance department’s monthly status report on actuals-to-date and projections based on historical revenues and expenditures for out-months.

It is a not clear why the actual division accounts are not periodically examined at school board meetings by spending category. 

Numbers are provided orally from time to time by chairman Mike Rose or financial administrative assistant Wilma Ward, when called upon to do so. Sometimes handouts are distributed, citing rounded figures for higher than expected costs, etc. 

Each school and department has a set amount for its budget. It is not known whether an actual accounting of each and a composite accounting for the division is kept by the administration. Many expect that should be done, then reconciled and compared to the county’s financial figures. 

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES

There are numerous reasons why the School Board’s bottom line is likely to be made whole by the county without a big fuss, if that’s actually necessary when an audit it completed.  

~ Shortfall Forecast:  A potential shortfall has been feared and forecast for the entire year, primarily due to lower state revenues than projected, due to a large dip in enrollment. 

The previous financial report distributed publicly in June indicated a potential shortfall of $240,390, but that was prior to budget amendments to reflect additional revenue and a requested increase of $150,000 in the county’s local appropriation.

~ County Surplus:  Also, the county general fund is projected to end the year with a $1,100,000 surplus due to constant monitoring, cost cutting and other sound management practices in place under Supervisors and county administrator Travis Quesenberry and deputy county administrator/director of finance Donita Harper. 

~ New Members:  Three new school board members took office in January, in the middle of both the school and fiscal years. They are John Davis, Ken Novell and Kristin Tolliver.

~ Brown’s Retirement:  Former superintendent Candace Brown was allowed to retire in the middle of the year at the end of December. While Brown forecast the expected state revenue shortfall, she did not provide the school board with concrete figures for any cuts.

~ Jones’s Efforts:  Interim superintendent Stanley Jones was hired to head the division for six months, until a new superintendent was named to begin July 1. Jones is credited with making substantial budget cuts that are believed to have made a significant difference in the size of the potential shortfall.

~ Revealing Admission:  The two experienced school board members, Mike Rose and Rick Randall, had only two years experience. Rose had publicly stated he and Randall had not received regular finance reports. They asked for them, but were put off and left in the dark by Brown, as the previous majority of on their board, Renee Parker, Dennis Paulsen and Lynn Pardee, appeared to prefer.  

~ Sound Management Lacking:  It had become clear year after year that Brown did not have a handle on the division budget. During her tenure as superintendent, the school board constantly complained about being under-funded by the county. But there were always surpluses at the end of the fiscal year, some of them huge. It was not because the division was trying to save money, but because finances were not adequately managed.  

~ Unanticipated Costs:  For the current year, Rose had also cited higher costs than anticipated for such unbudgeted expenditures as installation of scoreboards at Hunter Field and some high school practice fields, emergency replacement of the alarm system at Potomac Elementary, and overruns for transportation costs, special education purchased services and some operating funds toward roof repair at the School Board office. 

~ New Superintendent:  Robert Benson was hired as the division superintendent effective on July 1, with hopes all around for a new day dawning. He became the division’s third head in six months.

~ Working Relationship:  Supervisors desire a good working relationship with the school board members, instead of a contentious one, which had become a tradition. In January, Supervisors said they appreciated frank communication on budgeting and other matters. 

~ Fairness Desired:  At a joint meeting in January the potential shortfall was laid out by Rose and $150,000 more was requested to enable two-percent raises for all school employees. But Supervisors could see that the School Board was trying to get a handle on its finances. 

Supervisor Dale Sisson said, “The more that I know that you’re digging into your budget and working these things out, the more I can be in tune with you as we talk about these kinds of issues.” 

Supervisor Joe Grzeika agreed, but also said, “But I want to see you really buckle down and continue through this process. You’re not done.”  He also cautioned, “You guys are going to be in extremis for next year, as well.”

Grzeika was referring to the current fiscal year, 2012-13, which began on July 1. 

 

Phyllis Cook

 

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