School Board, Pasadena Unified Staff Will Work Together to Create More Transparency in Expense Reporting to Avoid Overbudget Spending

School Board approves First Interim 2019-20 Budget; year should see an ending fund balance of $20 million-plus

Published : Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | 5:44 AM

Chief Business Officer Dr. Leslie Barnes at Monday's Special Board of Education meeting. Image courtesy KLRNS

Facing previously unreported expenses and agreeing to new transparency procedures with District staff, Pasadena’s Board of Education approved a positive certification for Revised First Interim school budget for 2019-2020 at a Special Meeting Monday.

At the meeting, Chief Business Officer Dr. Leslie Barnes introduced the Board to new methods by which proposed overbudget spending requests can be monitored in order to better meet and control District spending.

The budget reflects $160,849,562 in state funds through the Local Control Funding Formula, and a Supplemental & Concentration Increase of $1.3 million, for a total of $23,253,912, based on an additional 571 students.

The budget also maintains $5 million in Measure J Funding revenue. The District is due to receive a total of $7 million in the coming year. For the first time in more than a decade, the budget also reflects a General Fund ending balance of just over $20.2M, according to the staff presentation.

In addition, the approved budget reflects an expenditure increase of $3.5M, which assumes “budget alignment to prior year actuals, board approvals, current staffing cost, and anticipated needs based on current trends,” according to the PUSD staff report.

District staff also noted that declining enrollment, expanding Special Education costs, unknowns in the upcoming Governor’s Budget, workers’ compensation funding, and Food Services costs remain ongoing concerns in developing the District’s budget.

According to the staff presentation by Dr. Barnes, the budget is the third budget to receive a Positive Certification since the Board was placed on watch by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in 2018 for failing to maintain a sufficient reserve account in its General Fund.

Though several schools have been closed over the last calendar year, however, some Board members, particularly Board Member Scott Phelps, had focused attention on seeing unchanged faculty and staff employee numbers in previously submitted interim budgets.

For the upcoming fiscal year, staff will now create a Board Appropriation Report, which will include a cumulative report in its Business Section of meeting agendas, as well as a list of all items on the agenda not included in the Adopted Budget.

The PUSD Board will now be easily able to see items that are included in the agenda that were not in the adopted budget, said the staff presentation.

The Report also keeps a running total of expenditures from the fund balance, “holds everyone accountable,” and establishes a mechanism by which the Chief Business Officer can establish a “cushion” amount needed, based on trends, according to the staff presentation.

As Phelps explained, “We’re going to have a system coming in January where we look at the major work that has to happen during the next six months.”

Dr. Brian McDonald and Board President Lawrence Torres will return to the Board in January with a work plan for the six months.

“And then,” Phelps continued, “we create a way to work together on that, maybe with an ad hoc committee between the board and staff. Staff will inform us what are the major works, and we’ll react to that. We’re wanting to approve a structure right before we approve the work.”

The report would help to cope with overstaffing problems, acknowledged Dr. McDonald, but he told Board member Phelps at the meeting that “over-noticing,” or informing teachers or staff that they might not be re-hired, could be “tricky.”

“We’re going to have to have a meeting with the Board about that,” said McDonald.

Board Member Kim Kenne told Pasadena Now in an email Tuesday, following the meeting, “I’m glad the board raised the issue of increased and new expenditures not being approved by the board. as per our board policy. Staff presented a proposed solution to this issue at Monday’s meeting that was given positive feedback by board members.”

Kenne continued, “Highlighting this issue and bringing forth a solution shows that the board and staff are working together to ensure fiscal stability for the district. This is not the only budget area that can use improvements, but I am confident that together we can address all the issues.”

Added Kenne, “I look forward to updated budget projections in January to assist with developing our plan, budget and staffing needs for the 20-21 school year.”

 

Editor’s Note: Although all Board of Education members were contacted for comments for this article, including new Board President Patrick Cahalan, only Phelps and Kenne responded.

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