FY 2016 ended on June 30th, putting the July 6th School Board meeting just a few days into FY 2017. Because so many decisions depend on the allocation of resources ($$$), budgets past and present are always a big item on the School Board’s agenda. Here are some interesting (I hope) budget discussions from the last meeting.
In FY 2016 Fluvanna Co. Public Schools paid the food services division $41,000 for unpaid student lunch charges. It’s a goal of food services to be self-supporting. $6,000-7,000 has been recouped by alerting parents, but most of the loss had to be “absorbed” by the school budget. Students who qualify for free lunch aren’t charged in the first place, so I was interested in how we can collect this money from families who’ve been determined to have the ability to pay. At least one Board member interpreted the situation very differently, and spoke at length about why families who may actually need meal assistance don’t apply for it, including personal pride and difficulty filling out the form.
Even the brand new FY 2017 budget is already absorbing some previously unfunded expenses. For example, while crafting the 2017 budget this spring, the School Board presented to the Board of Supervisors a significant list of items we hoped to add to the 2016 budget. After agreeing to fund increases in compensation and insurance, additional money provided by the BOS ($53,000) didn’t go very far toward checking items off the list. Fortunately, since the spring, we’ve been able to add many of these expenses after all (over $300,000 worth), mostly attributable to signing a money saving fuels contract.
Related to budget, a policy addressing personal days, annual leave, and holidays for different classifications of employees was discussed. It seemed disproportionate to me that employees on a 10 month contract get a maximum of 3 paid personal leave days while others on a 12 month contract get a maximum of 35 paid leave/holidays. It all gets pretty messy when you dive into the details. For example, 10 mo. employees are paid for 200 days, but could possibly work only 180 if the weather is horrific. On the other hand, 12 mo. employees are actually paid for 260 days (which means every Mon-Fri on the calendar, including Xmas Day, 4th of July, etc.) but after 10 years, they work only 225 days. All in all, my most conservative calculations give veteran employees on a 12 mo. contract at least a 4% pay advantage, just by virtue of the more generous leave policy.
At the end of each meeting, School Board members are invited to make final comments. I read a portion of the School Efficiency Review which advised Fluvanna several years ago that “the School Board should approve a detailed expenditure budget to comply with the code of Virginia.” The Review noted that subsequently a 2014 budget document was produced containing 41 pgs. of expense data with substantial detail for each school, program, and department. Accordingly, the following year the Board approved a 39 page detailed expenditure budget. This year the Board voted on salary scales, insurance rates, and 5 main categories of expenditures. In light of this, I asked Board members to renew our commitment to compliance with the recommendation of the Efficiency Review, and look at past expenses with the goal of, once again, approving a detailed expenditure budget in time for FY 2018.
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