Friday, June 13, 2014

The Budget vs The Budget

Much has been said about the Charles County Government Budget (or the lack thereof) over the past few days and people are very passionate on both sides of the spectrum.  Alot has been said on social media, he said, she said, blah, blah, blah.  I am making this post in regards to the Board of Education Budget; to provide a timeline with actual links to supporting documentation.  No more trying to figure out where the money is like a carnival shell game.  “Where’s the $$$???  See, here it is!”  Oh, no, it’s NOT! I hope this helps.

History of St. Charles High School  - I could go back to the design and plan stage but that's a former set of commissioners and another whole issue entirely.  Let's start with it was originally scheduled to open in FY13.  (I think that part is undisputed).  But, in March 2011 the current board of commissioners requested the current board of education delay the opening of the St. Charles High School until FY14.  The Board of Education, (mainly me, because I could see this train wreck coming years ago, please review my notes I posted all the way back in September 2009, yes 2009) wanted to get a promise in writing for the opening cost of $10M.  The state also wanted a commitment in writing from our local government on their commitment for funding before proceeding.  The commissioners obliged.  While I could not find the letter posted online to link, I found the minutes (although few), my notes from that meeting, and a recent letter from the state in my post Commissioners get hands slapped by state.   On a side note here, the $10M was baseline; having the new high school open with only three grades instead of four was ALREADY factored into that $10M. How it went to $7.7 was by request of the commissioners once again for us to squeeze and tighten and pinch some more because they could not meet their obligation.

Charles County Government Budget Here is Page 3 of the recently passed FY2015 controversial budget.  As you can clearly see, the difference from FY14 - FY15 is $2.9M.  NOT the $7.7M.  Certainly NOT the $10M. (for the Board of Education line item)

Let's start from the beginning and walk through this.  They say we have a FY14 Fund Balance "slush fund", " honey pot", "rainy day fund" of $18M they can direct us to spend as THEY see fit.

There is a huge problem with that:  most is COMMITTED MONEY and 50% of our budget comes from the state (so essentially, 1/2 isn't their's to start with) and the quoted amount is from June 2013. 

$18M June 2013 Total "Fund Balance"
(-$3.2M) FY14 General Fund Operating Costs
(-$2.1M) (March 2014 - OH PLEASE SEE NOTE 1 BELOW)
(-$5M) (See Note 2 below)
(-$2.4M) FY15 St. Charles HS (per CC Govt)
$5.3M "Fund Balance" (See Note 3 below)
*Note 1 - The County Commissioners requested assistance with their own FY14 budget shortage and we graciously  assisted with $2.1.  See document.

*Note 2 - This amount contains a required reserve for health insurance costs, and funds designated for major maintenance projects (F. B. Gwynn, lighting changes, school security, etc.); these are maintenance issues we have deferred addressing as long as we can, but MUST be addressed.  The money, for these necessary maintenance/ repairs is held in that “fund balance.”  There is also money set aside for emergencies (We have to maintain a lot of buildings, and those buildings MUST be “habitable” for use by staff and students.  Example:  No water?  No school!  We can defer some things – which we have done.  Other things MUST be addressed when they happen, and there MUST be money set aside for such!)
*Note 3 - We also have a commitment to OPEB (Other Personnel Employment Benefits) – that’s the retiree health insurance fund.  It’s an OBLIGATION we have not “funded” as yet…and THAT obligated money is in the “fund balance,” too. 

So you see, the $2.9M the county is “giving” us in the FY15 budget makes the funding pretty much a “wash.”  Take $2.1M, give $2.9M.   That’s the reality.

AND the county can again “take back” $ mid-year 2014-2015 (just as they did last year) because St. Charles funding is above the state-mandated amount for “Maintenance of Effort.” 

Even the $5M may seem like a lot of money to have in a "fund balance" to some people, but please consider, this is a $322M budget.  This does not leave huge room for error or emergencies for the coming year.  What happens at the end of FY15?  What about the schools that need renovations?
Additional Notes:
*The Developers’ Rights and Responsibilities Agreement is supposed to provide money from development to support the school system, but this Board of Commissioners has not allowed that money to be dedicated strictly for school funding.

See earlier post on how DRRA funds were used:  HERE.

See earlier post on APFO (Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance) and DRRA funding
*We have not been able to fund the earned step increases for our teachers, and this budget makes that impossible yet again.

Fiscal Year 2014
$322 million
Funding Sources
County -- 49.4%
State funds -- 48.8%
Federal funding -- .2%
Other --1.6%
Cost Per Pupil

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I was the one who commented on the previous post. This helps to put the pieces together. Please continue to post details and outlines like this.