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Archive for Friday, January 25, 2013

Lawrence school district audit shows large cash reserves

January 25, 2013

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The Lawrence school district ended the last fiscal year with $55 million in unencumbered cash reserves, or about 32 percent of its total expenditures, according to an annual audit report that will be presented to the school board Monday night.

Much of that, however, was in restricted, special-purpose funds, including debt service payments, special education and employee health benefits.

Within the general operating fund, the audit shows, the Lawrence district ended the year with $5 million in reserves, or 7.5 percent of expenditures, which is the same level of cash reserves that the Kansas Legislature requires of itself when it sets the state's annual budget.

It also carried over another $6.6 million in a "contingency reserve" fund, the maximum amount allowed under state law.

The audit report will be presented to the Lawrence school board when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

School districts in Kansas are often criticized for maintaining large unencumbered cash reserves while, at the same time, lobbying the Legislature for increases in general state aid.

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill allowing districts to transfer money out of certain funds into their general operating funds in order to make up for recent cuts in the base state aid formula.

And a report issued earlier this week by Gov. Sam Brownback's School Efficiency Task Force recommended changing state laws to reduce the number of separate cash reserve accounts that districts can keep and allowing more flexibility to transfer money between them.

Kathy Johnson, the district's finance director, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Kansas school officials generally have argued that cash reserves are necessary to meet cash flow requirements and to maintain a good credit rating for when they issue bonds.

Although schools have regular expenses throughout the year, their revenues come at irregular intervals. The bulk of the money they get from local property taxes, for example, comes in two disbursements: one in December and another in June, just before the end of the fiscal year.

In addition, the first state payments in a fiscal year for special education services arrive in October. That means when a fiscal year ends on June 30, districts have to have enough money in their special education fund to pay for at least three months of operation.

Of the $55 million that the Lawrence district carried over on June 30, $11.6 million was in the debt service fund; $9.8 million was in the special education fund; and $7 million was in the health care services reserve fund.

Superintendent Rick Doll explained that the health care fund comes from employee payroll deductions. The money is used to pay health insurance premiums, and the year-end balances are used to defray future premium increases or are rebated to employees.

In December, the district spent down some of that balance by issuing rebates to employees of about $500 each, Doll said.

In other business, the school board vote on approval of next year's middle school course selection forms and high school course description and planning guide.

Beginning this year, the high school guide will be available online, district officials said.

Comments

sierraclub 1 year, 2 months ago

Seems like the taxpayers should get a refund!

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bigtoe 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, I see one of the biggest left wing loons couldn't resist his usual cut-and-paste BS - still nothing but crickets from the others.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Milwaukee, however, has more than two decades of reality-based vouchers. The lesson from this heartland city?

Vouchers are a vehicle to funnel tax dollars into private schools. Using the false promise of “choice,” they are an unabashed abandonment of public education and of our hopes for a vibrant democracy.

Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the New York Times to the Milwaukee Journal.

The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Selling out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education.

Her book Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City will be published New Press in January 2013.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/13-0

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education

Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.

By Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan

A legislative contagion seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011. First, Wisconsin legislators wanted to strip public employees of the right to bargain. Then, Indiana legislators got into the act. Then, it was Ohio. In each case, Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions.

What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce essentially the same legislation?

The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Its self-described legislative approach to education reads:

Across the country for the past two decades, education reform efforts have popped up in legislatures at different times in different places. As a result, teachers’ unions have been playing something akin to “whack-a-mole”—you know the game—striking down as many education reform efforts as possible.

Many times, the unions successfully “whack” the “mole,” i.e., the reform legislation. Sometimes, however, they miss. If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person with the mallet can get them all. Introduce comprehensive reform packages. (Ladner, LeFevre, & Lips, 2010, p. 108)

ALEC’s own “whack-a-mole” strategy also reveals the group’s ultimate goal. Every gardener who has ever had to deal with a mole knows that the animals undermine and ultimately destroy a garden. ALEC’s positions on various education issues make it clear that the organization seeks to undermine public education by systematically defunding and ultimately destroying public education as we know it.

What is ALEC? http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/01/kappan_underwood.html

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patkindle 1 year, 2 months ago

hey it is only a few million dollars, plus it is all about the kids away, so lets just join hands and sing kumbaya.

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Dan Eyler 1 year, 2 months ago

Why is public education hiding millions of dollars of taxpayer money that you didn't even know about except for an audit? Why does the public schools keep this information from the public eye? why are unions taking dues from teachers pay checks? Why are unions using those dues to promote the very process this audit is pointing out? Why did the unions and the local school board promote, fully support and build new football, baseball, softball and soccor fields with new stadiums and artificial turf spending in excess of 10 million dollars from these funds we are discussing when at the same time the economy was tanking and a democrat governor was cutting funding to public education to control the state budget? They do this because what they do is for the kids and that's all they have to say and most of you buy that argument and its back to business as usual. How dare you even question the motives of those doing the work of our children.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Why are republicans trying to put PUBLIC EDUCATION out of business?

Do WE want big state government and ALEC to make this decision to make this decision for WE taxpayers? NO

It would seem to me that any cash reserve became an endangered species once the republican party began hacking away at school funding, This has been a battle for at least 15 years.

What is it republicans have against Public Education? They have never been clear on this matter.

Can private schools guarantee a better education than public schools? NO

Do private schools have to accept all students that need a high school diploma? No

If parents wanted to send their children to a private schools are there plenty available? Yes

If parents wanted to send their children to a private parochial schools are they available? Yes

Considering the number of families that enroll their children in public schools would that be an indicator that public schools that public schools are the schools of choice? Yes

Why then is big state government starving OUR public schools of of the tax dollars necessary to keep teachers paid a respectable salary and provide all school supplies? This question deserves an investigation comparable to say the Watergate hearings whereby republicans set up an operation to spy on the democrats when Nixon was in office. IF we want the truth.

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bigtoe 1 year, 2 months ago

Also take note in this comments section there is not a word from the usual standing army of left wing loons who routinely write 50-60 comments viciously criticizing and name calling the Governor and/or any other commentor who doesn't agree our schools have barely enough money to keep the lights turned on and pay the janitors. It's nothing but crickets when the indisputable facts of an audit are put in front of the community. It's hillarious.

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bigtoe 1 year, 2 months ago

"Lawrence school district audit shows large cash reserves"

After he has wasted months of our time with endless exaggerated bilge on how the schools are bankrupt and Brownback is screwing them out of the money they desparately need little Scotty Rothschild's head must be exploding right now.

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Peter Hancock 1 year, 2 months ago

The thing to remember is that fund balances on June 30 of any given year are just a snapshot at a randomly selected point in time. Money flows into those funds, and then out of those funds, at irregular schedules throughout the year. A snapshot on June 30 will look very different from a snapshot on, any other given day of the year. As I tried to point out, schools get a big property tax distribution in June, so that will show up in various balances on June 30. But that's money that has to last until the next big distribution in December. Thus, if you take a snapshot on, say, Nov. 30, just before the next tax distribution comes in, it will look quite different.

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buffalo63 1 year, 2 months ago

The reason they only have "$6.6 million in a "contingency reserve fund, the maximum amount allowed under state law", is they had to spend the extra $3 million this year that was over the maximum. Now is seems at least one board member is worried enough that some of the bond money should be set aside for some sort of "reserve"!

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 2 months ago

I find it frustrating as a parent of a special needs child that a portion of this surplus was ear marked for special ed. Did you know the public schools pay para's minimum wage? These workers have no training before school begins each year because there is no money to train them. These workers also quit at the drop of a hat because their pay is so low for an incredibly difficult job so there is no routine in the special ed dept which is very important for a child with special needs. To make matters worse, the school will not allow us to pay for our own para so my child has a person who knows how to work with him because it is a "conflict of interest" (meaning we will get to much information of what goes on behind closed doors and will sue them even though we have also offered to sign a document stating we will not). I am not blaming the teachers, far from it. I am blaming the school board for lying about not having the funds needed to train and pay staff appropriately. Everyone likes to complain about local businesses not paying a living wage when it appears the biggest offender in town is our schools when it comes to special education who pays minimum wage while sitting on a $55,000,000 surplus.

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jackv444 1 year, 2 months ago

At what point does someone question the poor leadership in this school district?

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KSManimal 1 year, 2 months ago

OK, Mr. Doll...... let's pretend, like you said, that this mysterious $7 million really is money withheld from paychecks. That makes it teacher's money, doesn't it? How about you just give it back.

That comes to about $8,000 each.

I can almost hear the back pedaling already; because that money ain't from employee payroll deductions.

What kind of person.....in the middle of a slime-storm in Topeka over "payroll deductions" for public employees....would turn around and blame their own money hoarding on their employees? Especially after said employees have been calling out money hoarding for years? That's gonna boost morale, I bet.

Perhaps Mr. Doll would like to chime in here and clear the good names of about 900 teachers before the other readers here have them tarred & feathered.

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Currahee 1 year, 2 months ago

"We need more money" they said....

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buffalo63 1 year, 2 months ago

The money shuffle has gone on for years. My Dad was a teacher in the 1950's in another state and it was going on then. Never any money for the people actually interacting with students, but money to spend on two duplicate athletic facilities, administrative offices and so on and so on. Look at the last sentence of the reason for the bond issue. That will tell alot.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 2 months ago

And to think a few months ago, the district paid two workers to haul some good desks and cairns to Bo's. And got $68. On the first load, those were taxpayer assets and could have donated and we would have saved the labor costs of the employees.

Anyone in this town that votes for the bond issue is a complete fool!

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highschoolmath 1 year, 2 months ago

lets see 55 million divided by 11000 students=$5000 per pupil, 11000 students divided by 1700 school dist. employees= 1 employee per every 6.5 students

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Peter Hancock 1 year, 2 months ago

According to Supt. Doll, the money in that fund may legally be spent for only two purposes: to pay the district's group policy premiums; or be returned in the form of a rebate to the people who paid into it. He says that if the insurance carrier raises premiums from one year to the next, the district can use the fund balance to lessen the impact on the employees. The district may not "pocket" the money - i.e., transfer it to other funds where it would be spent for other purposes.

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youngjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

'the employees had to fight in order for that money to come back to them rather than the district pocketing it.'

The retirees did not receive their money, the district pocketed it.

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KSManimal 1 year, 2 months ago

"Superintendent Rick Doll explained that the health care fund comes from employee payroll deductions. The money is used to pay health insurance premiums, and the year-end balances are used to defray future premium increases or are rebated to employees.

In December, the district spent down some of that balance by issuing rebates to employees of about $500 each, Doll said."

Not true, Mr. Doll.

The money in that fund does NOT come from employee payroll deductions. The only health care expense deductions from employee paychecks are those used to pay premiums for family coverage or other employee-paid expenses. No funds are withheld from employees and then retained by the district.

The money in this fund comes from line-items that are budgeted but not spent; and then swept into this account at the end of the year. This fund has grown by anywhere from half a million to over a million per year for several recent years. Look at past budgets, and you will see no decreases in that fund; so it clearly isn't being used to pay anything. In fact, the teachers union was told flat-out "we aren't spending that on teachers" when they inquired about this money during last year's negotiations.

Likewise, this fund has zero to do with the employee rebates. The health insurance company retains funds when payments exceed a certain proportion of claims paid; at which point those funds are used to cover the premiums - meaning at that point the district has a lower bill to pay for employee benefits. That happened for the FIRST TIME EVER this past year, and the employees had to fight in order for that money to come back to them rather than the district pocketing it.

Integrity. Try it some time.

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