Fri04182014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Supervisors grill Brown on budget

Candace Brown, King George School division superintendent, was called to the podium to answer questions from supervisors at last Tuesday’s meeting regarding a late-year funding request by the School Board.

She had asked that $413,181 in “unanticipated revenue” be added to the current fiscal year’s 2010-11 budget, which ends next month on June 30.

By the time they were through with Brown’s grilling and she had left the building with three School Board

members in tow, supervisors had ended up allocating $350,514 to the division.

Renee Parker, Mike Rose and Lynn Pardee had attended the May 17 meeting, along with financial executive assistant Wilma Ward.

Donita Harper, County Director of Finance and Deputy County Administrator, presented the budget item. There is $226,056 proposed for purchase of a new math textbook adoption, $169,125 to buy more computers and $18,000 for a new car.

Supervisors wanted to hear more about the current amount of projected surplus not counting the unanticipated revenue. Harper said the School Board’s expected leftover money was estimated at $494,600.

“It does seem odd to be adding money to a budget that is already showing a surplus at the end of May,” Chairman Joe Grzeika said. “And the expenditures — most of them I think — should have probably been in the next year’s budget.”

He added, “It looks like we are forward-funding stuff that should properly be in next year’s budget — textbooks should be in that budget, the drivers ed car should be in that budget. I think that begs the question of what we’re really doing here.”

Dale Sisson agreed, saying, “The concern that I have is if we’re projecting a surplus of nearly $500,000 already, I don’t know why we would want to add to that.”

Following more questions about how the money would be spent, Harper deferred to Brown.

Brown started by saying, “First of all, the textbooks are not regular textbooks, that’s a textbook adoption that is to replace all of the mathematics textbooks in the school division. We have a replacement cycle for our textbooks. That is to keep us on cycle. That has nothing to do with regular textbooks.”


Grzeika queried, “When did you know about this textbook adoption?”

Brown answered, “We have that textbook adoption on an annual basis. Periodically, we have gotten off schedule because we have been able to postpone it. We are trying to stay on schedule with that.”

Grzeika asked, “You don’t budget it?

Brown stated, “It depends on the funds available in the regular budget. We were able last year to purchase the textbooks for what we needed on that cycle. This would keep us on cycle for this year.”

Brown talked about computers, saying they try to replace some every year. But she admitted none of the items were in the budget. Regarding a question from Cedell Brooks about the use of the earlier-appropriated federal funding for Special Education, Brown said, “That is money that is allocated to us above and beyond what is in the operating budget. We have consistently, prior to my coming here, which is now 10 years, we have used that for salaries, for additional salaries, let me say positions, not salaries — that’s clearer — and for contracted services. That’s what that was used for.”

Of the existing projected surplus money, Brown said $500 bonuses for all employees “would still have to come out of that money.” John LoBuglio asked her if the bonus amount would remain at $500 or go higher and also wanted to know whether there was a distinction between bonus amounts for full-time and part-time workers.

Brown said, “It would be full-time contracted employees. It would not be long-term subs, and we have not discussed part-time employees — that would be 20 hours or less a week — those employees do not receive benefits. We only have a handful of those employees. I don’t know if the School Board — again, that has not been discussed — would intend to give them the full $500 or give them half since they’re half-time employees.” (See related article elsewhere in this issue.)

Supervisors provided last week’s appropriation for the additional funding that had already been banked, despite their obvious reluctance.

Their tough questioning came in the wake of an email that Dennis Paulsen sent to supervisors last week, which Free Lance-Star reporter Cathy Dyson blogged about.

PUBLIC COMMENTS
Prior to the appropriation item, Linda Davis and Kristine Sacra had both urged against giving the School Board additional funding.

Davis referred to an earlier appropriation of $466,870 in federal funds to pump up Special Education services, saying, “As a person who works with the special needs community, I’m not seeing any improvement.”

She reminded them about the state’s finding of systemic non-compliance. She also said she had that day received a notice regarding mediation for school services scheduled for the child of a parent she is helping.

Davis said, “They are going to pay an attorney to come and mediate against the mother,” noting the lawyer charges $275/hour and the mediation is slated to last eight hours.

“I don’t think that is a good use of our money,” Davis said. She added, “Why are our children not being educated? And why, quite frankly, are we the joke in education circles? We shouldn’t be. It’s too good a community for that.” Davis also questioned the timing of buying textbooks at the end of the school year.

Sacra, the mother of a high school student who was assaulted at the high school earlier this year, said, “The School Board has failed to protect or educate our children again and again, and I suggest that they be given no money until they submit a clear plan on education and safety in our schools and adhere to their own rules and policies.”

Raymond Eldred also commented, saying, “I think the board is doing the right thing in appropriating the money to them and making sure it is spent wisely.”

 

Phyllis Cook

 

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