Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Council Works “After Hours” On School “Philosophical Issues”

Ann Ahawver, Director of Finance

Ann Ahawver, Director of Finance

After Monday’s 7:00 PM Council meeting Roanoke City Council members again hit the budget issue but this time it concerned the schools. The long day with figures flying here and there were taking their toll. Councilwoman Gwen Mason leaned back yawning at times. All tried to pay attention as the Director of Finance, Ann Shawver went through a host of items she termed “too conservative” in calculations of the funding gap by Roanoke City Schools.

The RCPS funding gap of over $9 million has yet to be closed. Council listened to a litany of items Shawver considered could be added back to the plus column. This was due in part to overly conservative calculation assumptions and measures that had not been taken by RCPS to reduce costs. Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea displayed dismay saying that there seemed to be “philosophical kinds of issues that they [RCPS] don’t want to back up on… we’re making some tough decisions here.”

Shawver continued to highlight in detail each item she considered too conservative. She pointed out the $4.4 Million that the Senate added to the budget to compensate for Governor Kaine’s education cuts. RCPS did not account for these funds on the basis that it is one time discretionary funding for only 2 years.

Also pointed out was a discrepancy in calculating State Aid which would add back an additional $526,000 saying she believed the wrong formula amount was used by RCPS in their calculation for the two year period. Another $141,000 could be added back if RCPS used the latest Department of Education formula.

The staff also considered RCPS’ calculation way too conservative using the assumption that sales tax revenue would be 21% less than Fiscal Year 2009. She concluded that RCPS took the worst month to use in their assumption.

Shawver said “they were a little surprised that the school system needed an additional $1.5 million for medical insurance.” Their 2008 books showed the self-insured Medical Insurance claims over-funded. The City funds their claims using a “projected claims” formula and suggested RCPS could do the same. Medical insurance for retirees Shawver suggests that RCPS use the “trust” mechanism with professional management “to keep the cost as low as possible.” RCPS has been making policy changes to “whittle” down the costs expecting to eventually eliminate subsidizing coverage.

Another discrepancy Shawver noticed was that the debt service budget is already fully funded for the fiscal year 2009 so the $945,000 designated for debt service can be kicked back to the plus column as well. These items will be brought up at a joint meeting with the School Board for next week

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Finance, Roanoke City Public Schools



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