Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bill Matthews | MTLSD 2017-2018 Budget

Many of you may have seen Bill Matthews' letter to the school board.

Members of the Board:

First, thank you to the Board Members who pressed the Administration to hold the line on property taxes this year.  I have a pretty good idea of who you is, and who you isn’t.

Secondly, this is really not such a monumental feat, nor deserving of all the accolades that no doubt will be passed around to Dr. Steinhauer and his team.  We have been over taxed for years and when you combine this with all the funds being generated from bond refinancing and other sources, the District remains in a very strong financial position.  With the cash-on-hand, there is really no need to pad the surplus.

Please see the General Fund Budget summary attached.  Since Dr. Steinhauer took the reins, the District has landed under the Expenditure Budget (excluding Transfers to Debt Service and the Capital Fund) by more than $7 million.  The Revenue Budget has been essentially on the money.  

Please note, the reason Debt Service and Capital Fund transfers are excluded from my analysis is that the Capital Fund transfers are made from available General Fund surplus and very often are not reflected in the approved budget number.  Consequently, transfers may appear as a budget impairment, which could ultimately be misinterpreted as a “miss”.

Lastly, it sure would be nice going into finalizing the budget to know how the Administration forecasts the current year spend.  We used to routinely see forecasts similar to the attached. Just because the Audit & Finance Committee was disbanded, there is no reason another outlet for the information could not be employed (like the website). 

Fiscal transparency has been a general disappointment under the Steinhauer Administration.

Best regards,


cc: Mt. Lebanon Community


Anonymous said...

The only thing I'd disagree with is who did and who didn't part.
I suspect there's a very influential group somewhere that very much wanted Cappucci, Birks, and Remely back on the board and they figured a zero tax increase was a way to assure they got there so they could rubber stamp more stuff after the election.

Jason Margolis said...

Why do all the un-paid citizens have to do the work of the paid and/or elected government?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a numbers person, but reading the following story sounds very similar to me to what Mr. Matthews is reporting in our local school district. Am I reading your evidence correctly, Bill?

"Jerry Brown withholds $50M from UC in wake of audit"

"“Most people think she’s doing a good job,” Brown said, adding that the regents were among her supporters. He added, “I think salaries are way too high,” and said that UC employees earn far more than other state employees, including the state’s finance department workers. “I put the $50 million (aside) in there to hold their feet to the fire” when it comes to trimming costs."
"The UC president oversees an office with nearly 1,700 employees and a $686 million budget funded largely by contributions from the 10 UC campuses. State lawmakers requested the audit last summer to determine whether the money was well spent and whether services provided to the campuses were necessary."
"The main findings of Howle’s audit were that the president’s office had squirreled away $175 million in secret reserves — including $32 million that could have been spent on students — that Howle said should have been disclosed to the public and the regents. Howle found that the president’s staff also earned more than their counterparts in state government, and relied on tangled budgeting practices that obscured expenditures."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Matthews is right and the state Auditor General seems to agree.

"School districts’ hefty reserves raise questions"
JOHN BAER Philadelphia Daily NewsMay 23, 2017
"Let’s talk about your tax dollars and public education.

Let’s talk about school districts across Pennsylvania holding reserve funds of your tax dollars in interest-bearing accounts.

State Department of Education data puts the total at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year at $4.4 billion."

"That’s with a B. And it’s an amount equal to 75 percent of the state budget for basic education this fiscal year."

[ets not hear any more whining about school districts not getting enough money from Harrisburg]

"Almost every school district (485 of 500 districts; 97 percent) shows reserves. They grow annually. In just five years, they grew by more than $1 billion. They even grow in districts that seek to raise taxes."

"Districts need reserves in case of state budget delays. Districts face uncertain futures with regard to construction costs and ever-escalating pension costs. Reserves make it easier to borrow, since moneylenders like reserves.

"Fine. Some reserves are OK, even necessary. But every year, I’m told reserves are being spent and next year’s totals will go down. Yet they never do. Not even after Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2011 billion-dollar education cut."

"So what’s with the Keystone State and education dollars? And, on this issue, when is enough enough? “It’s typical Pennsylvania,” says Democratic State Auditor General DePasquale, who audits school districts. “It’s a mindset that says they have to hoard money.”

I like Mr. Baer's closing thought: "And ask yourself who, at the state or local level, is diligently managing your tax dollars."

And thanks again to Mr. Matthews.