By: Nancy Jester
The DeKalb budget has been in the news lately.
The Superintendent is projecting more revenue will be available for the FY14 budget. Specifically, the Superintendent is projecting DCSS will end FY13 with revenues exceeding expenses. The primary source is accumulated money in the after school program accounts for various schools.
The after school programs accumulate money for the individual schools they serve. These funds are to be used at the discretion of the school leadership for purchasing resources for their school; much like fundraising money. It appears the accumulated money in these accounts is being appropriated to make the overall budget scenario rosier than it otherwise would be. The majority of the other funds cited as recently found, are “potential” or “estimated”. I most definitely oppose the use of after school program funds to be pooled into the general fund for budgeting purposes. It is a complete breach of trust. As for the other “potential” and “estimated” revenues, I have two thoughts: (1) DeKalb citizens should be vigilant so DCSS does not return to its previously, overly optimistic and spendthrift ways and (2) Will DCSS fire the individuals responsible for grant administration that, allegedly, failed to collect on grant administration money due the district? The failure to collect this revenue for years cannot be placed on a CFO that served approximately one year and came to the district in the middle of developing the last budget. Furthermore, this past fiscal year is one of the few we can point to that showed fiscal restraint and will end without seeing expenses exceed revenue. Had DeKalb been as prudent with past budgets, we would not have found ourselves in deficit. I have not seen the financial statement for FY12 (the state is currently auditing that year) but DCSS may have exceeded its budgeted expenditures by over $30 million. One simply cannot run a school district like that.
While I am pleased to hear the Superintendent say he will be cutting central office staffing, I will reserve judgment until I see and can verify the cuts. One item we have not seen on the chopping block is transportation to magnet programs over and above what is legally required by the district. Last year, had we cut this, we could have saved almost $3 million dollars. That money could buy back one furlough day or hire almost 50 teachers. Has the Board asked the Superintendent to look into these types of trade-offs within the budget?
The next budget hearing has been postponed until June 3rd. I hope the administration is working on these issues. Stay vigilant because, with citizens’ attention focused elsewhere, the Spring and Summer months often bring questionable votes with negative consequences. Remember cell towers?