Letter to the Editor: A Good Investment For Schools’ Leftover $247,227

I regret that Chairman Janet Creager Alger of the Clarke County School Board wrote to me saying “no-thank-you” to offered input regarding $247,227 of left-over unspent money in last year’s school system budget. The quarter-million dollars was improperly subtracted from the Clarke County Public School’s accounting of existing leftover money in the proposed 2013 budget for the public schools now under consideration by the Board of Supervisors.
Small footnote print on Page 20 of the proposed schools budget shows the improper accounting of the $247,227, which ’fesses up to the way the quarter-million-dollar carryover money was improperly subtracted from the actual revenue total. This occurs on on pages 7, 8, and 20 of the 50-page budget document, so one has to hunt to find it and figure out what’s going on.
This is not chump change, because the average wage-earner works 10 years to make that amount of money before taxes.
The $247,227 has been in the school system’s bank accounts for who knows how long, and there is no earned interest shown by the school budget in its revenue statements.
Asterisks ** under a chart on Page 20 of 2013 budget document proposes that the $247,227 unspent money be applied as a share of a new financial management system called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) that is already used successfully by the City of Staunton and all its financial managers for more than 30 city departments, the public schools, police, courts, library, parks and recreation, tourist office, et cetera.
Staunton’s ERP system, produced by Tyler Technologies in Texas, integrates all the city’s financial management in one place and makes it easily accessible to financial managers throughout the city government and elected officials alike.   I discussed this with Michael Bowen, Staunton’s ERP system manager in the city Information Technology Office, who said many similar systems are offered by computer software manufacturers and already used by federal, state, and community governments and school systems throughout the country.
Clarke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert should be commended for his lone stance among five elected supervisors to move Clarke County in this direction and take advantage of the surplus school money for a one-third down-payment for an ERP system before School Superintendent Michael Murphy and his people spend the money.  County budget director Tom Judge says they have already used some of the surplus money for things they wanted.  Hopefully the entire Board of Supervisors will rally round Chairman Hobert before Murphy and Company spend all the leftover surplus money, which technically they can spend as previously authorized funding.
Then Clarke County could issue Requests for Proposals for its own new county financial management ERP system as soon as possible following expected final next-year budget approval in April.
George Archibald
Berryville, VA

Comments

  1. Another View says:

    I do not know if an ERP system is a good investment. But I do know that an elected official’s dismissal of a constituent’s well intentioned offer of input and help is deplorable. Perhaps the School Board Chairman should be reminded that she serves at the people’s pleasure, and can be removed at the people’s pleasure.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      Well…assumin that his side of the story is accurate, that is. And that’s all you have…his side of the story.

      • George Archibald says:

        An ad hominem attack of my integrity and honesty from Lonnie Bishop is deplorable and reckless. Its publication is most disappoionting. I do not know Lonnie Bishop. Has he or she been attending the FY 2013 budget meetings of the various Clarke County governing bodies that publisher Ed Leonard of Clarke Daily News has regularly attended as a reporter? Publisher Leonard knows that I have attended the meetings and knows my informed views from public comments he has heard.

  2. Pretty sure the “ones in charge” spend the money anyway they see fit! If it benifits the council, then, so be it! Thats Clarke county at its best!

    • really?... says:

      It’s not in ‘any way that they see fit’. They are stuck in the middle and try to make the whole county happy..but that certainly isn’t possible. Do you think they do this for the money? I can’t believe it would be worth the headache or aggravation. They do it because they live here. They work here. They have their lives and their families involved here. This is not a place they come home to just to sleep and leave the next day..this is actually their home.

  3. Food for Thought says:

    With the kids in the school system that cannot afford lunch why not “take care of our own” with the leftover funds. It might be just a lunch to some, but to others it may be the only meal they receive.

  4. Tony Parrott says:

    George, I think you missed the mark a little.
    The budget states 2012 was funded in part by “operational savings” of $247K. To me that is being fiscally responsible. What the budget is saying is this is not “recurring revenue” and can’t be expected every year. Kind of like you found $20 in your favorite easy chair and that allowed you to buy lunch that day. But you can’t count on finding $20 in your chair every day.
    Also the budget isn’t saying take the $247K and put it towards the ERP system. It simply means they wanted to take the money from the school capital fund to pay towards the ERP system. The $247K has nothing to do with the ERP system.

    • George Archibald says:

      Tony Parrott has actually missed the mark. The quarter-million dollars is accumulated unspent school money since the 2009-10 school year — $92,709 from the “operating fund,” which is for everyday expenses such as teacher salaries, utilities, classroom supplies, etc., and $154,518 from the “school capital fund” that was mostly leftover building money for the new high school.

      Parrott is correct that it is not “recurring” appropriated money. But it is part of unspent past appropriations. So the school superintendent and his budget people were wrong to subtract the quarter million from the actual 2012 appropriation amount in order to falsely lower the 2012 amount for comparison with the proposed operating and capital spending amounts in the fiscal year 2013 budget now being considered for adoption by the county Board of Supervisors. This is pure deceit any way one looks at it.

      The school budget itself proposed using the unspent leftover $247,227 for the ERP system, but the Board of Supervisors voted to delete its initial proposal to fund the ERP financial management system, while it also voted a pay hike for teachers, no personnel cuts, and a 2-cent tax increase for us to pay for a total school budget of $26.2 million — a $1.4-million increase over last year despite the quarter-million left over from prior years.

      Those are the facts, on the mark, not opinion.

      • Tony Parrott says:

        Ok George, I will try and make this simple for you. As it states in the budget: *The FY 12 budget was funded in part from use of $247, 227 prior School Operations savings held in the General Fund. As you agree this is not “recurring” revenue; therefore to do a fair comparison between FY12 and FY13 why would you leave in a revenue number that is not recurring? Also this money was spent in FY12; it’s gone. It’s clearly stated in the budget and in black and white so the BIG conspiracy that someone is hiding money in a drawer somewhere is simply BS. The comment about being deceitful is purely your opinion.

        So this is just wrong:
        “a 2-cent tax increase for us to pay for a total school budget of $26.2 million” Fact is $10.6 million comes from state and federal dollars so the 2% increase would be to fund the $15.6 million in local funding.
        “a $1.4-million increase over last year despite the quarter-million left over from prior years” Again the $247K in spent money unless you are referring to the money the BOS is in control of which I will guarantee you they will not use towards operational budget.

        Now for the ERP funding. The SB voted to add $325K to pay for 50% of the cost of the ERP system to the Capital Budget for FY13. This was an additional request for funding. Simply put the BOS would have to appropriate the money to the SB so they could give it back to them for the ERP. Now where your confusion may be coming from is the money that was given to the BOS two years ago (I believe) where the school district saved/cut some $900K+- form the budget. I also believe, if my memory serves me right, that $500K was used toward debt services, another portion was used for a onetime bonus for the teachers. The rest of that money is in the control of the BOS.
        I will agree with you that the county needs the ERP system. It would make this budgeting process much easier and save on time and allow resources to be freed up to do other work. But because this is for county use (which includes the school district) I believe the county should pay for it. The BOS needs to put out an RFI and figure out what they want/need, do an RFP and then fund it from the $15,000,000 of tax payer money they are currently sitting on.

        All in all please stop misleading the public. Good day sir.