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Taxpayers Subsidize Lunch For The Highest Paid County Employee

By Greg L | 21 February 2013 | Schools, Prince William County | 12 Comments

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)

Item 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
4014 Food 218,201
4015 Food Service Supplies 14,393
4998 Sales Tax 12,425
5501 Equipment - Replacement 2,000
6900 Reimbursement Account (205,462)
Total 310,910

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

Item Budget
Personnel 175,816
Employee Benefits 58,802
Travel 1,700
Uniforms 1,260
Production Costs 232,594
Taxes 12,425
Equipment 2,000
Utilities 18,000
TOTAL DIRECT COSTS 502,597
Debt Service (Rent) 42,000
TOTAL COSTS 544,597
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.



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12 Comments

  1. Kim Simons said on 22 Feb 2013 at 9:15 am:
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    This was discussed at the budget work session on Wednesday night. The Reimbursement account is where they put catering revenues. Since the Kelly Center Cafeteria is separate from the school division, they act like a private business. The money they receive from folks buying lunch is revenue and is recorded as such, but the “payment” they receive from catering meals for school division internal departments has to be treated differently because it’s a service provided within the organization as a whole. The school division records those catering “revenues” in the “Reimbursement Account” and the expense for catering services on the budgets for the department for whom the catering service is provided.

    There should be a better way to classifying these “revenues” and expenses so that they’re more transparent and easier to verify. For instance, there should be two different catering expense accounts - one for internal catering and one for external catering - and a catering services account under the Reimbursement account for catering “revenues”. The internal catering expense line should zero out when netted with catering services “revenue” reimbursement account line.

  2. Anonymous said on 22 Feb 2013 at 9:19 am:
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    Most cafeterias in the private world are subsidized by the corporations for the employees. The best way to hold down cost would be to erect temporary buildings out west for the developers houseing projects, to allow some tax revenue from those new homes to kick in. Healthcare has gone way up, what it is that that you rebubs dont understand about that one? A good chunk of the budget increases over the past 15 years has been on health care. The line item on VRS, what do you think the govnr raided to plug the debt problem in VA?

  3. Greg L said on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:17 am:
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    Kim’s comment raises an interesting, and indeed much more troubling point: if additional reimbursements offset food service expenses at the Kelly Center, where the heck are they in the budget? Are there huge pots of money flowing into the school system that are not disclosed in budget documents? What other unaccounted for pots of money are out there, off budget, not subject to public accountability, and directed to who knows where?

    How deep does this rabbit hole actually go?

  4. Harry Wiggins said on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:53 am:
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    I’d like to add, we’re also paying for Chairman Johns’ visits to his favorite watering holes in PWC, which he charges to his school issued credit card.

  5. Mom said on 22 Feb 2013 at 11:08 am:
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    The “interesting, and indeed much more troubling point” is the “huge pots of money” allocated to various divisions of the school system that although disclosed in budget documents are unaccounted for at the end of each fiscal year, “off budget, not subject to public accountability, and directed to who knows where”?

    This rabbit hole is a deep one.

  6. Independent Thinker said on 22 Feb 2013 at 12:53 pm:
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    Kim Simons said on 22 Feb 2013 at 9:15 am: “The money they receive from folks buying lunch is revenue and is recorded as such”

    Does anyone know how much revenue there is if “reimbursement” means catering income?

  7. Kim Simons said on 22 Feb 2013 at 2:34 pm:
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    This is one of the concerns I have with how the budget pages were presented for these self-funding or externally funded programs. What’s missing is the revenue projections for FY 2014 and actual revenues for FY 2012. Those numbers are necessary to (a) verify that the revenue projections are reasonable and (b) verify that the Cafeteria is in fact self-funding.

    As for the “missing” pot of money, it’s there but the projections weren’t given to us. If you look at the budget for FY 2013, last year’s budget, on page 325 you’ll find the actual revenues and revenue projections for the Kelly Center Cafeteria. Those weren’t given to us in the packet for FY 2014, so the meals sales part of the equation was missing.

    If you use the projections from the FY 2013 budget for FY 2014 you see that PWCS projected meal sales of $362,560 in FY 2014. Add that to the projected catering revenue of $230,000, from the Reimbursement Account, and you get total revenue of $592,960. Total expenses, excluding the reimbursement account, are $543,847. Assuming the revenue projections are correct, then revenue will exceed expenses.

    What’s missing for this fund in something listing the actual revenue received in FY 2012 from meal sales. That number would give us an idea of whether the revenue projections for FY 2013 and FY 2014 from the FY 2013 budget are reasonable.

  8. Riley said on 22 Feb 2013 at 8:33 pm:
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    This is why I agree with Harry Wiggins that we need to get rid of this ridiculous funding formula for the schools. First, it underfunds the schools and elected officials use it as an excuse. Second, it eliminates a huge oversight.

  9. J Doe said on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:55 pm:
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    A larger (much larger) PWC Education budget impact was created in 2009/2010. Walts and company used federal stimulus money to fund 3% pay raises for teachers. PWC now has that cost increase built-in to the education budget, every year as a result of the increased pay scale. Probably a multi-million dollar hit EVERY year. Tax payers stuck hard on both the federal and local level. Truly makes this chump change subsidized lunch program look very small. But yes, it stinks. Dr. Kelly probably would not have approved this. . .

  10. Head cocked to the side like a dog said on 22 Feb 2013 at 11:20 pm:
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    Saw Walts last year at Mike’s American Grill in Springfield during lunchtime. Wonder whose dime that was on? And shouldn’t he have been at work?

  11. Independent Thinker said on 23 Feb 2013 at 7:12 am:
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    Thanks, Kim. I thought I was missing a piece of the puzzle.

  12. Harry Wiggins said on 27 Feb 2013 at 2:00 pm:
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    Head cocked to the side…the charge to the school credit card at “Mike’s American Grill’ in Springfield was $45.75.

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