Refund part of  a larger issue

To the editor:

The ConVal 2012-13 Budget had $250,000 as a line item for ConVal High School parking lot repair. The Board says it has $350,000 now so it must have transferred an additional $100,000 using end of year leftover money. There is no appropriation in the 2013-14 budget and no reference to the project in the annual report. This “critical” project didn’t even get a mention in March. Yet suddenly a project is underway with costs estimated at $864,000. Everyone is blindsided.

The need to repair the original parking lot is not in doubt. But the work that has begun is a different project, the construction of two entirely new roadways for buses and parent drop-offs, along with sidewalks, curbing, metal fencing, etc. etc.

It is remarkable that while the Board thinks it has $350,000 to spend, it chooses not to do the part of the project everyone agrees on, the basic parking lot. Instead it spends $278,000 on the new roads, “Phase 1.” Shortsighted? Yes. Poor financial management? Yes. The Board won’t stand up to “experts” and apply common sense. It is certainly tiresome to hear the old mantras of ADA and safety. Freshly painted lines and some sensible rules should have been the answer.

It should be abundantly clear, however, that the school district has plenty of money available without the LGC refund of $638,000. The school budget is loaded with extras with the result that the project can be covered by internal funds. The public can be damned.

There is over $300,000 in the Capital Reserve Fund, plus 2013-14 is a new budget year and there will be the usual surplus accounts. Every year hundreds of thousands of dollars are created as a budget surplus because the health insurance line is budgeted at the maximum, and because new teachers are hired at lower cost than retiring teachers, known as the “hiring delta.” At the end of the 2012-13 budget year, there was nearly a million dollars left over. This happens every year in varying amounts. The 2012-13 leftover funds went to the trust funds in the amount of $250,000, and $535,000 are being returned to taxpayers. The business manager made a $600,000 mistake in reporting Building Aid and said she would cover it internally. That should tell us all something. The excess budget money should be returned every year, not spent on something the public has never been told about.

Meanwhile the taxpayers are being billed for an increase of 7.8 percent over last year.

Some of this increase is due to the cutback in Adequacy Aid from the state. Adequacy aid is based on enrollment. At least the state understands that costs are supposed to go down when you have fewer students.

The School Board should return the LGC refund to the taxpayers, and start work on a reduced budget for 2014-15.

Gail Cromwell


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