Monday, June 09, 2014

New School Budget and Public Hearing

Addendum 6/13  Board member responses added - My thanks for the prompt answers 

Since the passage in 2007 of a near 50% local property tax increase, the Wasatch School District has been flush with cash.

Budgets have increased FAR more than student enrollment for over ten years.  FY 2015 is no exception, with enrollment projected up by 3%, expenditures are proposed up by 5.5% over the original FY 2014 budget.

Last year (2013) WSD collected nearly 7% more than budgeted.   The solution - amend the 2014 budget to spend it.   Proposed increase almost 9%  (resulting in a $9 Million increase from FY 2013 to 2014.)

The money is still there - no tax decrease even remotely considered.  Some may remember the REQUESTED TAX CUT by the Taxpayers' Association because of excessive reserves.

There will be a Public Hearing on the budget next Tuesday.  A "complete" budget, highlighted for anomalies and inconsistencies, with percentage changes,  is available here.

Raise some questions and comments for the hearing.  In the past, very few answers are ever given to public budget queries, here are a few that might be proposed:

District officials indicate wage and benefits are 95% of the general fund and 65 % of the entire budget, a closer look raises some questions, a few random observations:

In this FY 2015 Budget, it appears all of the state retirement budget items have increased by about 24%.    Is that a requirement due to the recent study on the optimistic growth factor that had been assumed?   If so, is this a one-time correction or a continuing cost factor?  Can anything locally be done to ameliorate this extra expense?    Any time the state retirement increases, we are by state statute required to pay that increase for all eligible employees in the district.  The state used to fund that program, but hasn't funded the increase for several years.

Under the category "District Administration," the total salary has remained about the same, but retirement, Social Security and group insurance DROPPED drastically 2014 to 2014 (amended) and for 2015.    The district administrative decrease was a result in the new reporting procedures because of the new software by the Utah Public Education FInancial System.

Benefits for " Elementary PE Specialists" seem to be twice as high as other positions.  We only apply the benefits toward the Elementary PE Specialists wages, but that section also includes the wages paid for stipends. . .  .

"Group insurance" seem to be somewhat inconsistent in
relative cost - different contracts?  (Surely, there is a simple answer, to the question the board has already asked.)   The benefit is the same for all employees ( principles, cooks, bus drivers, teachers etc...).  The benefit comparison for a principle compared to a secretary would be inconsistent because their wages are different.   The Insurance rate increased 5.7 percent this year.
  • Up 20% for custodial,
  • No group insurance for "Quality Teaching"   Quality teaching is the name for the 5 additional professional days we pay all of our teachers.
  • Up from 0 to $181K for "Certificated Salary IDEA-Handicapped"
  • But, down 40% for District Admin
  • Up 6% in Special Ed PreSchool
Where are Computers for the Digital Conversion show in the budget?  The Feb 2014  meeting shows an expenditure approval of $154,640.50  for WHS teacher laptops. ($1257 each.)   The computers for the teachers show up in the budget as equipment.  We have budgeted over 2 million this coming year for computers because of our one to one  initiative that will put a computer in all of high school students this year.  Starting next school year each student from 5th grade through 12th grade will have a device as well as our teachers.

As the General Fund Balance shows  $5.7 Million, and the "undistributed" amount is reportedly $1.75 Million, to what is the remaining $4 Million assigned?  The remaining 4 million in the General Fund is a fund balance.  Our bond rating often is measured by what our fund balance is.  Compared to other districts our size, we are comfortable with that balance.

What is "Site Improvement" for $2.87 Million for in the 2014 amended budget?  (Giles property, demolition, new fences . . . ?)    The site improvement total is The Giles property for 2,010,295, the LDS property for 91,300 and teh demolition of the old high school for 631,560.

The District signed a contract To purchase 30 acres of Giles property for $2 million on March 5, Searching the minutes to see when that was approved by the Board,  back to 9/19/13, no approval was found.  If anyone finds it, post a link, at some point approval must have been officially made.  We approved the purchase of the Giles property in a public noticed meeting on April 30th, 2014.

Pool Starting Blocks bid from Recreonics, Inc. in the amount of $17,913.15.  Check out Google "pool starting blocks purchase"   for comparative prices from $450 to $1650 ea - how may were purchased for a six (?) lane pool?     (no response)

Total Pool costs for 2015 is $372,807, UP 7%.    Some may remember WSD proposed $220,000 to assist in the proposed operating cost of the proposed aquatic center.

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