What’s $30 Million Among Friends?

At last night’s BOCS meeting, Supervisor Pete Candland mentioned some savings PWCS had carried forward.  The savings he noted ranged from $8 million in the 2010 school year to nearly $31 million in the 2014 school year.  Supervisor Candland said he wouldn’t stake his life on the numbers, but that’s what it looked like to him.

He’s right.

In January of 2010 PWCS reported “savings” of $8,249,361 in their 2nd quarter budget update.  $8 million of that was carried forward to the 2011 school year.

This January PWCS reported “savings” of $30,826,526 in their 2nd quarter budget update.  $27.8 million of that was carried forward to the Construction Fund for capital improvements and $1.1 million was carried forward to pay for technology improvements.

These savings aren’t the entirety of what is carried forward by PWCS each year.  These savings are just the school division’s projections in January of what things will look like at the end of the school year in June.  The actual savings that are carried forward at the end of the year are usually greater.

What is carry forward?  By statute, because they’re funded by taxes received from citizens, school divisions are not allowed to have any money left over at the end of the year.  That means that any money that is left over at the end of the year has to be allocated, or carried forward, to the next year or subsequent years. It means that throughout the year the school division assesses spending, calculates what will likely be left over at the end of the year, and carries any excess forward to other funds or the next school year.

Some of the expense categories that resulted in “savings” have been adjusted, so, presumably the savings that are carried forward in the next few years won’t be as much as they were this year.

However, when you have from $8 million to $30 million in savings that you can carry forward to subsequent years, and that money primarily comes from 4 places – under budgeted revenues, over budgeted reserve expenses, over budgeted utilities expenses, and over budgeted compensation expenses – it is difficult to accept that there isn’t enough money to reduce class sizes beyond the 1 student in math in 6th grade that is contained in the FY 2015 budget.

Don’t take my word for it, look and see for yourself.

This file contains the 2nd quarter budget updates from 2010 ===>Q2Updates-2.  These are the actual updates from the PWCS web site.

The chart below is all of those updates conveniently typed into one chart.  The cells highlighted in yellow are the amounts being carried forward.  The columns are in reverse chronological order, so they start with 2014 and go back to 2010.

2nd Qtr Updates

 

Everything is Awesome…

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

Everything is awesome,

When you’re living the dream! 

I just saw the Lego movie with my children, and that song was an integral part of the movie.  As a Mom with two children, I spend a lot of time at movies like this and, as so often happens in these types of movies, my mind wanders a bit.

See, if you listen to the reports about Prince William County, everything here is Awesome.  We have the lowest taxes in the area and are one of the wealthiest counties in the nation!

Everything is Awesome and PWC, we are Living the Dream!

Except where we aren’t.  Our taxes may be among the lowest in the region, but our tax rate is among the highest.  Our household income may be among the highest in the nation, but it’s one of the lowest in the region.

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School Board Report for February 5, 2014

School Board Report for February 4, 2014
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Party All Night Long

The agenda for the Feb.5, 2014 School Board meeting is available, and it will be a long one.  Because the last meeting was cancelled due to poor weather, the meeting will cover all of the topics from the January 22, 1014 agenda and all of the topics from the Feb 5, 2014 agenda.  Double the fun!!

The following items will be discussed and or authorized: Read the rest of this entry »

Parental Notification

On the public agenda for tonight’s school board meeting are three items of interest – changes to the policy on testing regarding parental notification, the 2014 – 2015 school year calendar, and the 2014 internal audit plan.

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School Board Report – November 19, 2013

School Board Report for November 19, 2013.

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School Board Report – October 16, 2013

School Board Report for October 16, 2013.

Please be advised the unless otherwise noted, comments are not verbatim.

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Does the PWC School Board Take Education Seriously?

If we’re to believe our school board members and every other person who works for PWCS, the school division’s finances are at the point where we might have to cut or eliminate non-core services in the coming years; that to balance the budget things like specialty programs, sending students to TJ, elementary strings, and middle school sports might have to be eliminated.

I sat through the budget discussions last spring and listened to department head after department head bemoan how little money there was to maintain current service levels.  I heard how PWCS is understaffing special ed and certain student services to the extent that our children’s education is at risk.  I had a conversation with a senior level school division administrator about serious problems they know exist in one of our programs for mathematically advanced students, and listened as he told me that they didn’t have the staff to design and implement any sort of changes to the program.  Every school board member just attended a joint meeting with the BOCS about reducing class sizes where it was agreed that taxes might have to be increased to bring class sizes down.

If the school division’s finances are stretched as tightly as they say, why do so many school board members still believe the pool is a wise choice?  The school pool will cost the school division approximately $1 million a year, after user fees are deducted.  The total costs of the pool are in the $1.5  - $1.8 million range with user fees covering $500,000 – $800,000 of those costs.  That money to pay those expenses will come from our allocation of county tax receipts, and, as we’ve heard for everyone employed by or affiliated with the school division, the school division is broke and can barely afford basic instructional supplies.   Yet Dr Otiagbe, Mrs Jessie, Mrs Covington, and Chairman Johns still believe that spending $1 million a year for the school pool is a wise decision.

Why?  They know that money doesn’t grow on trees and must realize how little room there is in the school division’s budget for luxuries like a school pool.  Yet they still think it’s a good decision and refuse to say why.

This week Dr Otaigbe said he thinks every PWC school student should be given an iPad.  PWCS officials implied that the only thing holding us back was our budget.  Are you kidding me!  Just so I understand, if PWCS had Fairfax’s budget, we’d be buying and issuing iPad or lap books for all of our students?  Seriously?  That’s roughly $17 – $34 million.

Classrooms in many of our schools are too large to manage.  Our teachers haven’t gotten the salary increases they deserve and may not be getting them in the coming years as the state requires school districts to pay back the deliberate underfunding of the VRS.  Schools have been rationing things like toner and paper.  But spending $1 million a year on a pool is a wise use of funds and buying iPads for students is a necessity.

Hugh????

I can’t imagine that these school board members are that stupid.  I was willing to give these folks the benefit of the doubt.  I figured maybe they had inside information that indicated that the school division would be getting more money from who knows where.  Maybe someone bought a winning lotto ticket with PWCS money so now the school division has several hundred million it didn’t expect.  Because barring that, I don’t know how the school division can pay for all these nice to haves.

Unless there’s something else at play.

At the joint school board / BOCS meeting, the BOCS agreed that we may need to increase taxes to adequately fund our schools.  Maybe these school board members expect that the tax increase will be sufficient to fund their pet projects, so they don’t need to worry about fiscal restraint.  The pool, iPads for students, increased spending on conferences and travel without justifying the expenditure, $100 million on a high school, astro-turf fields – all are perfectly fine as long as someone is available to pay for it.

It’s not that the PWC School Board isn’t serious about education, it’s that they’ve found their sugar daddy to pay for their playthings, and it’s us.

School Board & BOCS Report – Oct. 8, 2013 Dinner

On October 8, 2013 the Prince William County BOCS and School Board held a joint dinner session to discuss class sizes in county public schools, teacher compensation, and proffers.  Below are my notes from that meeting.

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Headbangers Ball…

I’ve been attending school board meetings for longer than I care to remember.  There are meetings that you walk out of feeling all warm and fuzzy, meetings where you leave wanting to slay dragons, and meetings where you want to run screaming around the parking lot banging your head against the pavement.  Last night was a head banging sort of night.

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