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School budget clarified

March 09, 2001

School budget clarified



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett was in the ballpark when he stated on his application for a Franklin, Tenn., job that the school system's annual budget is $150 million, according to the approved composite budget for this school year.

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The composite budget, published in August, includes $27 million that was not presented to the public at meetings on the 2001 proposed operating budget.

The $27 million is restricted money, special revenue and the board's Capital Improvement Plan funds and puts the board's total budget at $145.6 million.

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The board presented the operating budget to the public last year as $118.4 million.

David Brandenburg, the board's supervisor of accounting, said the restricted money is left out of public presentations because the school system isn't sure how much it will receive until the end of the school year.

Restricted funds are grants, mainly from the state or federal government. They may be used only for the specific purpose for which they were granted. Restricted funds include Title I, Class Size Reduction, Adult Basic Education, Career and Technology, School to Career and Goals 2000 grants.

For the 2000-2001 school year, the school system received $7.9 million in restricted funds from the federal government, $4.4 million from the state, $741,146 from the county and $55,136 from private groups.

Also not included in the public presentations were the $5 million food service budget and the $9.2 million Capital Improvement Plan.

For years, The Herald-Mail has reported only the budget amounts that were made public. It learned that the School Board's budget is higher than what is presented at public budget meetings when Bartlett listed the school system's annual budget as $150 million on his Tennessee job application.

Bartlett has applied for the director of schools position in Williamson County Schools in Franklin, Tenn. He is one of five finalists.

On Tuesday, Bartlett acknowledged that the majority of public perception is that the board's total budget is $118.4 million.

"I agree," he said.

The proposed operating budget for 2002, which the board is currently working on, is being presented to the public as $127.9 million. By mid-summer, it's going to jump to about $155 million, including restricted and other funds, Bartlett and Brandenburg said.

Brandenburg said the school system doesn't yet know how much it will receive in restricted money for 2002.

"It would be meaningless to include it in a presentation at this time," Brandenburg said.

Tina Bjarekull, assistant state superintendent for state services with the Maryland State Department of Education, said the state board includes restricted and unrestricted funds in its public budget meetings.

"Operating budgets include both restricted and unrestricted funds," she said.

Bjarekull said that the Washington County Board of Education includes the restricted funds when it submits its operating budget to the state. She said the school system meets all of the state requirements when it submits its budget.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the county includes all grants in the budget total that is presented to the public.

Shoop said the county uses the term "grants for operation," rather than using "restricted funds" to describe its grant money. The entire list of grants is listed in the county's proposed budgets.

County Commissioners President Gregory Snook said the commissioners knew about the School Board's restricted funds.

"We've always been aware of those," Snook said. "It's usually in our packets, but it's not in the presentations."

School Board member Roxanne Ober said the School Board could improve the way it communicates its budget to the public.

"It's really deceptive, because people don't quite understand," she said. "I think we have to be better at educating the public on our budget if we want them to be involved in our budget."

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