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BOE revises policy on unspent money

Money will go into special fund to cover gaps in state funding

April 06, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a policy revision that will allow system officials to put unspent money into a special fund.

Chris South, chief financial officer for Washington County Public Schools, said the fund balance will absorb money that goes unspent at the end of each year.

"The fund balance will protect us from interruptions in our revenue stream," he said.

South said the fund balance would help cover expenses if the state cuts funding to local school systems, which could happen as the Maryland General Assembly tries to find ways to prevent a projected $2 billion shortfall.

This fiscal year, Washington County Public Schools is receiving about $138 million, or roughly 60 percent, of its $229 million budget from the state government.

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South has said that the system ideally should have between $18 million and $25 million in the fund balance to cover revenue losses from funding sources. But with cuts looming from the state, he said those figures might be wishful thinking.

"In good times I think it's realistic," South said after the meeting. "You have to understand that's a goal."

Some members of the board said before they voted that department heads might develop a "use it or lose it" mentality and spend their entire budgets, rather than surrender unspent money to the fund balance.

"People might be afraid they won't get what they need next year if they don't spend it this year," Board Vice President Justin Hartings said.

South assured the board that department heads could apply for unspent money that they lost to the fund balance to pay for projects in subsequent years.

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