Here’s The Devil in the Details
Here we go again! The same old finger pointing and blame game by some of our elected Frederick County Board of Education members who claim they do not have enough money. Why is it the Board of County Commissioners’ fault; and why it is for the children?
Now, first, let’s look at the past four years of the Board of Education’s budgets and the 2013 proposed budget. Here are the figures for the total school budget for the years cited.
· FY2009 – $492,564,711
· FY2010 – 497,178,717
· FY2011 – $506,884,167
· FY2012 – $516,751,528
· FY2013 – proposed $515,104, 568
Most would say that the proposed 2013 is $1,646,960 less than the 2012 approved budget. True. But it is not because of funding from the state or county government. The county funding is actually up $863,993 and the school system is getting over $5 million more in additional state funding.
So, how can they have over $1.6 million less in revenue? It is called a reduction of fund balance. The school board has an estimated $2 million surplus (fund balance) that it is using in the proposed FY2013 budget.
In FY2012 the school board had a close to a $10 million surplus (fund balance). Those who follow Frederick County Public Schools remember the onetime $9 million that was discovered or found – whatever you want to call it – by the former budget director on the very day the Board of Education’s approved its budget. We all shook our heads and even the newly elected members had looks of disbelief. That is why a non-recurring onetime 1.5 percent pay enhancement for the teachers was approved by the Board of Education last year.
Now, for the proposed FY2013, here is what the county actually proposes to fund for education from the general fund:
The county proposed FY2013 budget has $3 million as a place holder for the shift of teacher pensions by the General Assembly to the county. This mandate may be more or less, and it is going to happen. The Board of Education has nothing currently budgeted for this shift. There is a verbal agreement between the school board and the county commissioners to split this mandate 50/50 per the recorded joint meetings between the commissioners and the Board of Education.
The school board has received more than $15 million in cash above the Maintenance of Effort since 2007, and more than $64 million in cash since the year 2000. This does not include any of the in-kind services or debt service or general fund contribution from the county for the school system. The Board of Education is more than 50 percent of the county’s budget. Frederick County has 370 fewer employees since 2008; and we have also had layoffs and other major reductions.
The county has a surplus due to conservative budgeting, better than expected revenue from income tax, and tough decisions. The Board of County Commissioners does not care if the elected Board of Education wants to give raises; but this is a recurring expenditure and they will need to deal with that every year going forward. The county’s possible onetime surplus does not account for this, so it is not the magic solution as painted. There is a big difference between additional recurring revenue (which should match additional recurring expenses) and onetime revenue like this year’s projected county surplus.
Remember that the Board of County Commissioners proposed an idea of having Board of Education given taxing, but only a few of the elected school board members wanted to have that discussion. The rest remained mum or ran for the hills as it is easier to point fingers and/or blame someone else rather than making tough decisions.
This has to change! Please get Board of Education members Jimmy Reeder, Brad Young and April Miller some help and research those who are seeking your vote for a seat on the school board. And most importantly, VOTE on April 3 (tomorrow).