The Prince William County School Board, dutifully carrying out the orders of Superintendent Walts, has been loudly bemoaning the prospect that our taxes might only be raised by 3.53% instead of 4% in the county and that the resulting cuts from the anticipated increases in spending will just be impossible to bear. Well, it’s time to call bullshit on this annual farce. I as a taxpayer am thoroughly fed up with the stunning incompetence and sheer laziness (at best) of the Walts administration, which is definitively putting the county schools on the same trajectory of fiscal mismanagement and outright thievery as his last tenure in Greece, New York.
If it is pretty easy to find waste, fraud and abuse in small budget items, it’s quite likely there’s a lot of waste, fraud and abuse in the big items as well. So let’s dive into one of those items.
The Kelly Leadership Center operates a food service facility that sells meals to school employees and provides catering at school functions at the Kelley Center. About this same time last year there was a question whether this food service operation was providing taxpayer-subsidized lunches to Dr. Walts, who just happens to be the highest paid local government employee in Prince William County. Walts pulls down a salary of over $250,000 a year, plus lavish benefits including a county-provided automobile. I asked the county schools about the budget for this operation and they provided me with one of those wonderfully reassuring responses that definitely made me feel that there’s fire beyond this smokescreen.
The operations of KLC Food Services are included in the budget, but are largely self-supporting. Along with KLC staff, they serve a wide array of School Division events throughout the year. Utilities for the food service area and the KLC building itself are past of the combined expenditures for all Division utilities. Similarly, there is no rent charged for the food service area. The space is part of the overall the KLC building expenses contained in the PWCS Debt Service budget.
So we have already established that the meals provided to the esteemed Dr. Walts are already subsidized by the taxpayers to some degree, who are paying for the rent (or debt service in this case), utilities, waste disposal and janitorial support for the operation. Food service isn’t exactly light on utilities, trash service or floor space, and folks I spoke with estimated that this would easily run at least $5,000 a month. But let’s set that aside and look at the budget as it is presented to us unwashed masses for a moment.
Here’s the budget proposal for this fiscal year, one where the schools apparently are unable eke out any cost savings lest we are forced to teach those poor children in dirt-floored shacks adjacent to their non-existent stormwater management facilities.
KELLY LEADERSHIP CENTER CAFETERIA FUND 18 (FY 2014 Proposed Budget)
|1192 Cafeteria Manager||60,845|
|1193 Cafeterial Staff||114,971|
|2100 Social Security - FICA||15,781|
|2210 Retirement - VRS||21,675|
|2220 Retirement - PWCS||1,387|
|2300 Health Insurance - HMP||18,338|
|2400 Life Insurance - GLI||1,621|
|3401 Travel Reimbursement||1,700|
|4007 Wearing Apparel||1,260|
|4015 Food Service Supplies||14,393|
|4998 Sales Tax||12,425|
|5501 Equipment - Replacement||2,000|
|6900 Reimbursement Account||(205,462)|
Some explanation is in order here. The line item “Reimbursement Account” accounts for the revenues collected from food service customers, and the final total of $310,910 is the amount of taxpayer money that will ostensibly be sunk into this operation, excluding debt service, utilities, and other sundries. If we were to use something approaching Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures here instead of this somewhat non-intuitive method that allows finance department employees to claim with a straight face that this is a “largely self-supporting” operation, a budget would probably look something pretty close to this:
Honest Projected Budget For the Kelly Leadership Center Cafeteria Fund
|TOTAL DIRECT COSTS||502,597|
|Debt Service (Rent)||42,000|
|Revenue From Operations||205,462|
|Net Profit (Loss)||(339,135)|
This is an operational loss of 38%, which is subsidized by the taxpayers. So when the esteemed Dr. Walts, who is lavishly paid by you and I, goes to eat lunch at the cafeteria, almost half of the cost for that meal is being paid by you, the taxpayer. You’d think someone paid so well, along with the rest of the “leadership” team there in the Taj Mahal wouldn’t qualify to be on the taxpayer-funded reduced lunch program.
So why is it an important budget concern for the Prince William County Schools to provide subsidized lunches to administrative staff and leadership bureaucrats? Because this is what bureaucracies do - they make their lair comfortable. At the McCoart Building they remodel offices with lavish custom fixtures and furniture. At the Kelly Center/Taj Mahal, they have taxpayers subsidize the bill for everyone’s lunch. Could the resources used to give bureaucrats cheap lunches be directed toward improving student outcomes or providing useful support to the teachers that enable those outcomes? Sure, but it is pretty obvious that the bureaucrats who crafted this budget don’t actually care about that.
This is chump change they say, and eliminating it won’t change anything…
Sure. To that family that can’t afford a 4% hike in their property taxes, a sum of $339,135 is huge. And when the school system doesn’t seem to care about $300k in a cafeteria budget, you really have to wonder what else they don’t care about either. That could add quite a few zeros to the end of the waste, fraud and abuse totals for the division.
Just as the taxpayers of Greece, NY learned, under Dr. Walts there is no such thing as financial management. The only way to impose some degree of this sorely lacking quality is for taxpayers to start tearing this budget to shreds.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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