Tavares, FL - June 8. 2012
This is a guest column from Jim Krakowski of the South Lake 912 Tea Party. He attends many workshops and regular meetings of the Lake County School Board, and this column is based upon his attendance at the Lake County (FL) School Board workshop and regular meeting held last Monday, June 4, 2012:
My comments / observation regarding June 4, 2012 Board Meeting.
(Jim Krakowski 6/7/12) james krakowski [email@example.com]
After hearing the last few budget presentations and subsequent discussions, I am becoming more and more convinced that the board should request monies be spent on educating themselves and the administration on financial management and fiscal responsibilities. The CFO (Carol MacLeod) has made several presentations on the fiscal year 2011/12 budget and this is what I take away from these presentations:
- Transportation: The district’s buses travel approximately 29,000 miles per day or 5.2 million miles per school year … yet there doesn’t seem to be any
- Utilities: Utilities cost the district $25,000 per day or $9.1 million per year … yet there doesn’t seem to be any reserves being establish to replace heating, air conditioning lighting, etc.
- Staff: The district will be adding 5 -6 staff at the district level for an additional cost of $310,000 and 4 new guidance counselors at a cost of $250,000 … one of which is not supported by student population but deemed necessary to help with struggling students. The ration of teachers to support staff is almost 1 to 1. That is, for every instructional person there is a support staff (administrative staff, bus driver, principal, assistant principal, etc). This seems high, especially when Lake County is ranked 11th in the state in administrative salaries and 44th in the state with regards to educating students. It would seem that the district should add more resources to the classroom and less to the administrative staff.
- Debt: The district’s debt at the beginning of the fiscal year was $500 million. It takes $32 miiion per year to service that debt (principle and interest). The total of the districts capital assets is $682 million. In other word for every $1 of assets the distinct has $0.73 of debt (not a great ratio) … yet the district plans on spending an additional $20+ million to renovate and/or add to existing facilities instead of using those funds to reduce the debt.
- Revenues: The revenues for the coming fiscal year are projected to be 5% - 8% less than the previous year … yet the district is allocating funds to increasing staff and building new brick and mortar structures vs. putting funds into those who are actually doing the education or setting up reserves for transportation or HVAC replacements.
- During these board meetings, there was little discussion among the board members regarding looking for alternatives. They may have a question for the staff, but little discussion between themselves. Since this is the only forum that they are allowed by state law to discuss school district issues, I am a little confused why there isn’t more dialog among the board members. Thus my opening comments … maybe they need additional education relating to financial management and fiscal responsibility.
I can go on with other examples, but trust the above makes the point. The district needs to look for and discuss alternatives.
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(Editor's Note: This week, on Thursday, June 7, the second of a series of meetings of the Lake County Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CfAC) was held, and I attend those meetings. It included a two hour presentation by the School District CFO, Carol McCloud, on revenue source reductions for the school Committee. Some of the committee members also asked the School Board member Kyleen Fischer why the Board had not initiated an available 1/2 cents sales tax or other alternatives. In my opinion, the Board just throws out the data on dropping revenues, and waits for someone else to initiate actions. vj )