Board votes to keep school divi­sion’s car­ry­over funds

Schools sought funds to up­grade wire­less tech­nol­ogy, pay for main­te­nance projects

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Adri­enne Wal­lace, Her­ald-Post Ed­i­tor

PRINCE GE­ORGE — “Wow” was all School Board mem­ber Kevin Foster could say fol­low­ing the county board’s de­ci­sion on Tues­day to keep the school sys­tem’s un­spent funds from last year.

At its reg­u­lar meet­ing Tues­day night, the Board of Su­per­vi­sors voted to put the school divi­sion’s fis­cal year 2018 car­ry­over money into the county’s cof­fers, deny­ing the school sys­tem’s re­quest to use the $539,000 for sev­eral projects.

In an in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day, School Board Chair­man Robert Cox Jr. said he was not ex­pect­ing

the board to con­sider the fund­ing re­quest on Tues­day. Once mem­bers of School Board re­al­ized it was be­ing con­sid­ered, they asked su­per­vi­sors to ta­ble a vote un­til school of­fi­cials could pro­vide an­swers to any ques­tions that might arise.

“I just heard yes­ter­day (Tues­day) that the board had some ques­tions,” Cox said. “You can’t tell me that 500,000 plus dol­lars will be spent be­fore the end of Jan­uary. They could have just tabled it. ”

But at the meet­ing, Su­per­vi­sor Alan Carmichael moved to keep the money in the county’s fund bal­ance. The mo­tion was sec­onded by Su­per­vi­sor TJ Webb. On a 3 to 2 vote, the mo­tion passed, with Chair­man Don­ald Hunter and Su­per­vi­sor Mar­lene Way­mack dis­sent­ing.

In a phone in­ter­view, Hunter said, “I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m not about to tell some­one how to run their bud­get. Some­times you may want to save money for last-minute emer­gen­cies, though this was a lot to save for last-minute emer­gen­cies, but I’m not try­ing to sec­ond-guess their de­ci­sion.”

In a let­ter to the county ad­min­is­tra­tion, Su­per­in­ten­dent Re­nee Wil­liams ex­plained how the ex­cess amount would be al­lo­cated in the FY2019 bud­get if the Board of Su­per­vi­sors ap­proved the re­quest.

Items to be funded in­cluded $120,500 for wire­less in­fra­struc­ture to ad­dress is­sues and im­prove the divi­sion’s wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity and meet the state’s re­quire­ments for test­ing.

The re­main­ing $463,000 would have funded sev­eral projects in the op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing HVAC re­pairs at J.E.J. Moore Mid­dle School, divi­sion-wide roof main­te­nance, elec­tri­cal switch gears at each school, elec­tri­cal work at the high school, new pump­ing fix­tures through­out and pav­ing around Prince Ge­orge High School.

Cox said the divi­sion will work to try to get some of those items com­pleted through its main­te­nance fund, but with­out the car­ry­over money, some things just won’t get done.

Re­gard­ing money left over at the end of the fis­cal year, “I’ve been told be­fore that we need to spend all of the money,” Cox said. “But we’re not go­ing to spend it just to spend it. That’s not be­ing good stew­ards of the tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars.”

Asked if there would be any carry over funds in the fu­ture, Cox said there would al­ways be money left. “With a 60 mil­lion dol­lar bud­get, you’re not go­ing to get it to the penny,” he said. “I think the county board should be ap­pre­cia­tive of the

School Board for al­ways turn­ing back money at the end of the year. We’ve re­turned as much as three mil­lion dol­lars.”

Last year, money was saved in the fuel bud­get be­cause of low gas prices. Also, some projects have to wait un­til the end of school around mid-June to be com­pleted. The fis­cal year ends June 30.

“We can’t go into the class­rooms and put in new LED lights when kids are in there,” Cox said. “We can’t redo gym floors or re­place the track when school is in ses­sion.”

Cox sug­gested it would have been ac­cept­able if su­per­vi­sors voted to al­lo­cate some money back to the School Board and kept part of it.

Cox said he will rec­om­mend that the School Board draft a let­ter to the county re­quest­ing that the two govern­ing bod­ies meet to talk about their Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing, which de­tails the county’s pol­icy for fund­ing the school syste and also ad­dresses school con­struc­tion and car­ry­over funds.

“We need to sit in a room to­gether and dis­cuss these mat­ters. We get nowhere if we keep go­ing back and forth one or two peo­ple talk to one or two peo­ple on two dif­fer­ent boards,” Cox said. “We are sup­posed to work to­gether for the good of the county. Don’t get in the gut­ter — let’s stay on the side­walk and talk.”

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