- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 April 2010 17:09
- Published on Wednesday, 14 April 2010 17:09
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The King George Board of Supervisors and the School Board touched on only a few of the 20 questions forwarded in advance from both boards to which answers were sought at last week’s joint meeting.
All members of the Board of Supervisors were present on April 6, including Chairman Dale Sisson and Supervisors Cedell Brooks Jr., Joe Grzeika, John LoBuglio and James Mullen.
Four of the School Board members came to the joint session, including Chairman Lynn Pardee and members Renee Parker, Dennis Paulsen and Mike Rose.
Member Rick Randall missed the joint meeting, which lasted from 4–5:35 p.m., instead showing up after it was over and telling The Journal he thought it was at 6 p.m.
The main idea on which both boards agreed is they need more and better communication.
After wrangling over some budget issues, the two boards agreed to Sisson’s suggestion that they meet together once a quarter.
“I think we can all agree that we need to work harder at working together,” Parker noted.
The joint meeting was intended by supervisors to provide a chance for both boards to get a better understanding of the budgeting process on the other side.
The main problem supervisors wanted to resolve is how the division’s actual expenditures for the current year relate to the School Board’s $34.7 million budget request for next year.
That information cannot be gleaned from Superintendent Candace Brown’s budget request because she only provided the School Board and Supervisors with “budgeted” numbers.
Also, the budget format Brown uses provides line detail by “elementary” and “secondary” education, without a breakdown by schools. It does not break it out by the state’s major funding categories, which include Instruction, Technology, Administration, Attendance & Health, Operations & Maintenance and Facilities.
Monthly written reports provided to supervisors and the School Board by Deputy County Administrator/Director of Finance Donita Harper are formatted by school, department and by state categories, which is the way funding is appropriated.
Supervisors had asked to be provided in advance of the meeting with actual numbers for School Board expenditure for the year-to-date. They requested those actual expenditure numbers to match up to the format of the School Board’s itemized budget request.
That document was not provided either in advance or at the get-together.
Instead, there was a lengthy and confusing back-and-forth with various members of the School Board trying to explain how their budget request related to reality.
JOINT MEETING DISCUSSION
Chairman Sisson began by saying his board has been looking at actual expenditures to date and projecting those out for all county departments.
He explained they likewise wanted to understand how the School Board’s $34.75 million request related to the current year’s $32.79 million projected expenditures.
Paulsen said the “lion’s share” of the $2 million gap was from a $1.2 million cut made in January to conform to a cut in state revenue due to fewer students.
Paulsen provided a listing of the cuts and said it was the School Board’s intention to restore those expenditures in next year’s budget.
Those funding cuts had been made by the state solely to address a smaller amount of state basic aid due to lower enrollments from a projected average daily membership (ADM) of 4,095 to a projected 4,039.
The enrollment is not expected to rise significantly for 2010-11, with Brown estimating the 2010-11 ADM at 4,050 for next school year.
Brown stated the current figure the School Board is asking for is now actually $33,592,323. She said that lower amount would address smaller payments due to the Virginia Retirement System under the budget adopted by the General Assembly.
Grzeika also explained the reason for wanting more information saying, “We want to make sure we understand your request.” He said they wanted actual expenditure figures so they could, “plot those numbers to your request, see what the actuals have been, and see how big an increase or a decrease makes sense.”
Grzeika suggested that a simple solution in the future would be to put the School Board’s budget request into the format that is being used for monthly financial reports.
Chairman Pardee appeared defensive, saying they didn’t have a finance department at their central office. She claimed more finance staff might be needed to make formatting changes.
She asked if supervisors saw a “red flag” and wanted to know what they were “getting at.”
Sisson said: “You asked about the underlying reason behind the question. I don’t think there is any specific thing behind it.”
Sisson explained that throughout the year, supervisors closely track all expenditures in the overall county budget, of which the School Board’s budget is a component part.
Supervisors finally elicited from Superintendent Brown the information that her budget request format is only used once a year during budget planning, with her saying it was “a general spending plan” that was not used by principals and other department heads to track expenditures.
Brown said they instead use the same finance reports that supervisors get from Harper to follow expenditures.
Pardee explained her role, saying, “I don’t ‘do’ finance. What I depend on is the information detail that is put together by Ms. Harper.”
Paulsen suggested that Harper and Brown get together to provide a budget format that conforms to the county’s, reiterating, “Because we haven’t been on the same page for many years and the numbers just cross.”
OTHER ISSUES, SAME TOPIC
The two boards also touched on a couple of other issues all related to money.
Pardee let it be known that the feelings of some School Board members had been hurt last year when supervisors refused to take action on their request for an additional appropriation of $125,000 last May.
The School Board wanted $93,000 for a handicapped accessible bus, $9,000 for a lawn mower, and the rest to go for Sealston Elementary School, with $4,587 on technology items and $18,413 for additional playground equipment.
That request by the School Board was unanimously approved on May 27 after they and the public had already been informed on May 13 that Brown was intending to turn back a surplus of at least $236,000 to the county.
By the time the request for more money appeared on the agenda of the Board of Supervisors, that planned surplus had more than doubled to an estimated $590,257 in early June, but it ended up even higher, at a final surplus of $1.19 million turned back.
Supervisors had responded to the School Board’s request for more money by noting that if the School Board had real requirements, the items should instead be purchased using their surplus appropriated funds.
At last week’s joint meeting, Pardee recalled the episode, saying, “Maybe it didn’t come across as nicely as it sounded right now. You said to take it out of the operating budget.”
Grzeika responded, “That’s right.”
Pardee argued the issue, saying supervisors could have given them the additional money and still ended up with the same amount unspent.
“It’s the money is the money is the money, and it doesn’t really matter what fund it is in,” she added.
Sisson noted: “The bottom line is you had money that was already appropriated to you.”
He also pointed out: “You all have to understand that when we fund one area, we are not funding another.”
Pardee stated, “We couldn’t go buy a bus at the end of the year, because we don’t pay for it until we get it.”
But LoBuglio pointed out, “You can pay for things by doing the paperwork ahead of time.”
That is a legal and common practice to order items in one fiscal year and take delivery and pay for them in the next fiscal year.
The cost of the item is “encumbered” in the budget for the first fiscal year, with the payment either accrued back to that year or carried forward into the next fiscal year, depending on when payment is required.
Pardee brought up the question of whether the county might cover the out-of-pocket increase for employees for their health insurance.
Brown noted the division is expecting that increase to be 17 percent higher saying about $420,000 could be needed to cover the increase for employees, depending on their individual election of the 12 plans offered by the division.
Supervisors were surprised at the division’s 17 percent expected hike, with Quesenberry saying the county’s health insurance increase is expected to be 0.2 percent.
They expressed a desire to look into combining health plans, which in the past has been rejected due to higher county costs.
The two boards also discussed possible consolidation of other services. Next up: grass cutting and grounds maintenance. No date has yet been set for the next joint meeting.