PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

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Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

[quote]Portland Press Herald
[b]Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it [/b]
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer
Friday, May 4, 2007

Portland school officials spent $500,000 that they were supposed to cut from this year's budget, city councilors learned Thursday evening.

The action means school officials defied a City Council order last spring to reduce the $82 million school budget by $500,000.

News of the overspending came as the council's finance committee resumed its largely unwelcome scrutiny of a proposed $86.4 million school budget for the coming year.

. . . [/quote]

[url=http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/local/070504budget.html]PPH[/url]

This is better than I would have done on the story. The article should have been about the current budget, but because of the lack of forth coming by the super on budgeting it came to a head last night.

This is a press release from the school department apparently responding to the PPH article. That is chutzpah to worry about your appearance in the press over actually providing the facts and figures when asked.

[quote][b]Portland Schools Set to Meet Budget Limit[/b]

The Portland Public Schools has made numerous reductions to the current year's school budget to accommodate the City Council's $500,000 funding cut last spring, Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor said Friday.

The school department anticipates ending the fiscal year with a balanced budget despite an urgent need to hire a dozen additional special education teachers and other, unexpected costs, O'Connor said. The Portland School Committee approved the special education positions last fall.

"The School Committee has worked hard to earn the public's trust by being fiscally responsible despite the extraordinary pressures facing our district," said Chairman John Coyne. "We are doing everything possible to adhere to the spending limits set by the City Council."

The City Council approved an $81.9 million budget for the 2006-7 school year, or $500,000 less than the School Committee had requested. The school department recouped savings when long-term employees retired and were replaced by lower-paid new employees. But it was insufficient to cover the additional costs for special education services.

The school department therefore instituted a budget freeze on February 6, 2007. The freeze prohibits new equipment purchases and permits only required staff travel. O'Connor has reviewed every purchase order and decided whether to approve it. School administrators have scrutinized the need for all vacated positions before filling them.

Richard Paulson, the school department's director of finance and operations, said that every effort is being made to ensure that the current year's school spending falls within the limits set by the City Council. The fiscal year ends on June 30.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 4th, 2007 at 11:07 am [/quote]

http://www.portlandschools.org/News/blog/?p=142

Steven Scharf
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EJ
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

NOTE TO MARY JO

YOU"RE FIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

COME ON CITY COUNCIL, SHOW SOME, WELL greenbacks.

"The City Council approved an $81.9 million budget for the 2006-7 school year, or $500,000 less than the School Committee had requested. The school department recouped savings when long-term employees retired and were replaced by lower-paid new employees. But it was insufficient to cover the additional costs for special education services. "

A Play on words, we did not mean to spend the 500K, but did. So NANANANANANANANANAAAAA.

EJ

Melvin Udall
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

I thought they hired 25 new bodies!

What freakin' arrogance all through the story.....they don't like oversight or questions, etc.

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

It get even better. The city council has an order on their agenda for approval on the 21st to authorized over spending for FY 2006. The school over spent by $836,543. The city over spent by $6,452,436. It appears from looking at the city year end financial report that the schools took in $70,642 less than budgeted and the city took in $8,339,336 more than projected. So while the city over spent at a higher rate, they did not over spend more than they took in.

It is certainly easier to predict school revenues. 90% of it is taxes or state funding. The city has many user fees that can fluctuate along with their share of excise taxes.

Need to note, the schools have not over spent their budget, yet, they have just not spent it as described in the budget presented to the city council last May..

There has been some interesting commentary on the MaineToday article with most calling for Mar Jo’s head.

Steven Scharf
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Naran
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Wasn't she the one who threatened to quit unless she got a hefty raise a few years ago? Or, am I mistaken?

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

There was a brougha about her raise but she never threatened to quit.

Steven Scharf
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Dan Billings
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

So am I correct that they spent $500K that they did not have authority to spend?

Shouldn't there be consequences for such actions?

Is there any process in the Portland Charter to remove School Board members?

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

They have not spent more than authorized by the council appropration. The super claims she went to the committee for permission to hire some of the the staff she hired. I don't remember that happening, but I don't watch the school committee as closely outside budget season.

The school dept (and the city manager) apparently has the flexability to move money around after the budget has been approved. That may need element tightening.

There is a recall procedure, but the electorate are going to be blaming the super not the school committee, who are sticking up for the super.

Steven Scharf
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Dan Billings
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

[quote="Steven Scharf"]They have not spent more than authorized by the council appropration. [/quote]

So what do the stories above mean? Where does the $500K number come from?

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

That is the amount the council told them to cut last year. The strange thing is they were given $225K for unanticipated energy costs, so they really only needed to reduce the budget by $275K.

Steven Scharf
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Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

I just looked at the budget resolve from last year and the $225K is missing from the motion. (The same motion lists two different amounts for the approved appropriation, the orginal # only got changed in one place.) They are orking off the higher approved number so techinacally they are 725K over budget.

Steven Scharf
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JIMV
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

[quote="Steven Scharf"]There was a brougha about her raise but she never threatened to quit.

Steven Scharf
SCSMedia@aol.com[/quote]

Those folk make too much to quit...Unless I am wrong, the only folk who can fire them are the people in the next election so...they spend as they will and too heck with the public.

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Bonger posted this to the wrong therd so I am adding it here and then will add my replys.

[quote][b]Portland schools run up a deficit [/b]
By TESS NACELEWICZ Staff Writer
July 11, 2007
The Portland school department overspent its budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30 by an estimated $1.7 million, school officials said Tuesday.

The deficit resulted from unexpected expenses and spending that exceeded projections in such areas as salaries, special education, health insurance and energy, said Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor and others. Also, Medicaid reimbursements and various grants came in $850,000 below estimates, officials said.... [/quote]

[url=http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=120006]Source[/url]

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

The School finance director was the proprietor of a downtown tourist store, "Mainely Made", that he closed upon being hired to mange a school system with an $80 million budget. He is also a former mayor of Portland, the only requirement for that job is to get elected to the city council and stay around long enough to rise to the top through their seniority system.

Steven Scharf
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Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Although lengthy, I felt it is important to post the following spin email sent out by the Portland school department.

The email does not compute with what was reported in the PPH and what was told to the school committee in May. I was at a meeting where the Finance Director’s Financial Report was a 30 second verbal communiqué that the school dept was within a percentage point of being on budget. He read it off so quickly that I could not acutely record the two percentages he cited.

There was no concern with energy costs, benefits etc. Increases in those line items were no significant factors in the then ongoing budget. The energy costs went op by about $260K in the FY 2008 budget, benefits, 600K.

The software upgrade was budgeted for in the FY 2007 budget.

By May we should have been well aware of the over spending in the bus maintenance. All fleets age, I don’t think Portland’s fleet is any older than any other town.

The only thing missing from the timeline at the end is July 1, 2007: the resignation of the super and Finance Director.

Steven Scharf
SCSMedia@aol.com
[quote][b][portlandschools] Portland Public Schools Expect to Exceed Fiscal Year 2007 Budget [/b]

Date: 7/11/2007 9:58:14 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
From: vandok@portlandschools.org

The Portland Public Schools, upon completion of the year-end audit in September, expects to exceed its budget ending June 30, 2007 by approximately $1.7 million.

The higher than expected expenses will occur despite the school district's cost cutting of $500,000, as ordered last year by the Portland City Council, and it has been driven chiefly by unexpected and/or uncontrollable cost increases caused by government mandates, collective bargaining agreements, rising energy prices and increased health insurance costs. The expected deficit is approximately 2% of the authorized budget of $82 million.

Based on available financial data early in May, the school district appeared to be operating within budget. However, a mid-May payroll projection forecast a significant deficit by year-end. Subsequent examination of this forecast has caused the district to revise its projection.

Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor also announced that she is working with the School Committee and the City to develop a recovery plan.

"This deficit is regrettable but unavoidable" stated O'Connor. "In order to meet the budget target set by the City Council, we lost the flexibility within the past fiscal year to adjust to the kinds of dramatic increases in our labor, energy and government compliance costs that actually occurred". According to O'Connor, Federal and State mandated special education costs, collective bargaining agreements and electricity rate increases were the primary drivers of this deficit. In addition, the District projects a revenue shortfall of $850,000, due primarily to an unexpected change in State Medicaid reimbursement and State
denial of administrative support for grants.

A detailed summary of the major factors affecting these deficits follows, as well as detail on the cuts made in the budget year meet the $500,000 reduction that was mandated by the City Council.

"Each year, my administration works diligently to manage a large budget that is challenged by the requirements of continually increasing government mandates, the pressure of collective bargaining and the rising cost of energy" stated O'Connor. "It is now our task, on behalf of our students, parents and taxpayers, to balance the realities of limited financial resources with the goal of providing quality education and opportunity to our children. We pledge to do so in a way that allows each of our constituencies a voice in the difficult decisions that lie before us".

Summary of Unbudgeted Costs
The Portland Public Schools' budget is extremely complex and contingent upon numerous variables that, in the past year, caused expenses to run significantly ahead of anticipated levels. These variable increases were in addition to the $500,000 cut in the original budget request made by the School Committee to the City Council.

The unforeseen and/or uncontrollable factors included:

• State and Federal government mandates for special education increased special education personnel costs by $325,000
• Special Education contracted services, such as transportation and out-of-district tuitions exceeded budgeted levels by $300,000
• The school district had, with City Council approval, budgeted for a 2.5% for all bargaining unit contracts. The contracts settled at 3%, causing a wage and salary increase of approximately $675,000 in the 2007 budget year.
• Due to a higher than expected increase in the cost of health insurance and other benefits, and lower than expected savings from employee retirements, the cost of employee benefits increased by $275,000
• Given the aging of our school bus fleet, this year saw heavier than usual requirements for bus maintenance, where costs exceeded budget $140,000
• Electricity rate and demand charges exceeded budget by $210,000, despite conservation measures that reduced consumption by approximately 1.1%.
• A major software upgrade to comply with new reporting requirements of the Maine Department of Education, $80k.

Detail of Reductions to Meet City Council Budget Mandate
As the year progressed, school administration, in response to the cost reduction directive of the City Council, launched a comprehensive set of discretionary expense reductions, which reduced spending by $500,000. These are described below:

• A reduction in spending for professional services of $30,000.• Reductions in transportation, staff mileage and travel spending totaling $85,000.
• Reductions in books and supplies totaling $165,000
• A savings of approximately $100,000 through oil and natural gas conservation measures.
• A reduction in spending for audiovisual and computer supplies, totaling $65,000.
• Deferment of capital equipment purchases totaling $60,000.

Financial Management Timeline
April 10, 2006 - Portland School Committee approves $82.2 million budget and sends it to the City Council.

May 15, 2006 - With City Council Finance Committee input, the School Committee voted to reduce the school budget by $500,000 - $81.7
million.

May 15, 2006 - City Council approves an $81.7 million school budget.

July 2006 - District leaders review the budget and expect to manage the City Council $500,000 reduction through savings in the Wages and Benefits account.

September 6, 2006 - School Committee approves 3.4 new Special Ed positions to meet federal and state Special Ed mandates for Special Ed services to students.

November 1, 2006 - School Committee approves 4 new Special Ed positions to meet federal and state Special Ed mandates for Special Ed services to students.

November 15, 2006 - School Committee approves PEA contract with a 3.0% increase – up from the 2.5% budgeted.

December 2006 - Superintendent and district leaders review the budget again given the significant changes in the fall and develop a plan to tightly manage discretionary accounts.

February 6, 2007 - Superintendent issues a freeze on all discretionary accounts – monitoring all purchase orders, approving any hiring to fill vacancies, etc.

Early May 2007 - Review of discretionary accounts reveal significant savings and the department is expected to meet budget.

Mid-May 2007 - New payroll projections indicate that the district will exceed its budget.

June 27, 2007 - Superintendent shares the expected budget deficit with the School Finance Committee.[/quote]

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

FYI, Zen Ben has taken out papers to run for school committee.

Steven Scharf
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Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Mary Jo O'Connor interviewed on News 8 WMTW, siad this year was anomally and that the school department had a log history of meeting thier budget. This is dead wrong as they were $836,543 short last year.

I am looking for an article Kelly Bouchard wrote that listed the last several years over spending.

Steven Scharf
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EJ
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

"This deficit is regrettable but unavoidable" stated O'Connor"

MARY JO: YOU'RE FIRED!

WOW [b][size=24][color=blue]ONE POINT SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS.[/color][/size][/b]

Divide that by the number of portland tax payers and you have what around 32$ each? (if we have 50,000 taxable buildings)

STEVEN

Did Portland GO GREEN with Energy? That cost more money doesnt it.

"• Electricity rate and demand charges exceeded budget by $210,000, despite conservation measures that reduced consumption by approximately 1.1%"

If So, SHAM One for the WACKO Environmentalist, Bleeding Portlands pockets.

Ed

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

There are about 35,000 properties.

No, the city schools do not pay a preminum for being green energy.

Steven Scharf
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EJ
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

I thought CMP had a Dumb Idiot charge for "GREEN" power. Higher rate.

Ed

laMaine
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

CMP does not sell power. They merely sell the transport it over their lines.

EJ
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Yes but they have "GREEN POWER" that cost more but is from "Green sources".

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

LAMaine is correct here. CNP charges to transport the power. If you want green power, you buy it from an outside source.

Steven Scharf
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MarkSeger
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

"The school department anticipates ending the fiscal year with a balanced budget despite an urgent need to hire a dozen additional special education teachers and other, unexpected costs, O’Connor said. The Portland School Committee approved the special education positions last fall."

I was talking to a parent that has a child in the Winthrop school and she told me that the school will be cutting the budget like the Superintendent was told to do.
She said that her daughters teacher notified her of the cuts. Up to a dozen teachers will lose their jobs, most coming out of the special ed dept.

Superintendent"s dept. has no cuts in it's proposed budget.

I will be going up to the town hall later this week to get the info and proposed budgets to see what is going on.

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

The Winthrop approved budget is on the town's website. There is just one part of the school budget that is not clear (the document is not easy to decipher). That is whether the "separate schools article" at the bottom of the page is part of the "gross total expenditures" referred to above.

Whether it is part of the gross, is immaterial to the fact that the FY 2008 Winthrop school spending will be higher than FY 2007.

There are reductions in certain areas including an un-described "Part 2 that goes from $308K to 0. Debt service is down $200K. Administration increases from $364K to 44K.

Steven Scharf
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rklindell
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Should somebody be facing charges of misappropriation of public funds?

JIMV
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

What BS! They are in the hole because they signed sweetheard deal with the unuions and did not care to fight them on employment.

Steven Scharf
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

[quote]Portland Press Herald
[b]Portland schools go deeper in debt [/b]
Officials expect to find revenue falling short by about $850,000.

By KELLEY BOUCHARD Staff Writer July 16, 2007

The Portland School Department's budget deficit could top $2.5 million. . . .

The total includes a possible $850,000 revenue shortfall in addition to $1.7 million in overspending that was reported last week.

School officials clarified their gloomy budget projections Friday in the hope that telling taxpayers now will soften the blow when auditors issue a report in October or November.

. . .

Paul Colpitts, the city's financial administrator, said he warned school officials on or about May 10 that he calculated a $2.4 million deficit in the school budget year that ended June 30.

. . .

"We are taking this very seriously," O'Connor said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: kbouchard@pressherald.com [/quote]

[url=http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=121018&ac=PHnws]PPH[/url]

So they did know when Dick Paulsen told the school committee in May that they were are target.

I love Mary Jo’s closing comment.

Steven Scharf
SCSMedia@aol.com

I forgot the link to the article.

Naran
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

Yeah - "taking it very seriously" now that it's public, but cheerfully ignoring it in private, and continuing to sign the checks all year, regardless.

OFF WITH HER HEAD!

She deserves to lose her job for this one.
Despicable.

JustSayNo
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

It is the School Committee that deserves the gallows.
With the hundred-thousand dollar computerized accounting/budget program(s)
in use today in our schools (and I am sure in Portland),
it is absolutely impossible for the school committee members to be
ignorant of the status of the school budget as the months go by.
If the Portland School Committee does not read and understand a monthly
budget report they should all resign.

Apollo
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PPH: Told to cut $500,000, schools spent it

They were talking about this on WGAN one morning recently and Ben Meikeljohn said that it was Bush's fault because of unfunded federal mandates. Steven, would you know how much of the budget is really unfunded federal mandates?

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