VetTheGov spent some time looking into the media hype of why the local, state, and national media during so called budget cuts and why schools get targeted so quickly. Hopefully this information helps you open your eyes and mind to where your tax dollars go when discussing school budgets.
VetTheGov started with the State budget proposals, Colorado Department of Education Finance site and then looked close to home here in Mesa County Colorado District 51 posted budget from 2010-2011. VetTheGov gave a quick glance at the current proposal by Democratic Governor Hickenlooper's administration and especially focused on the management portion on the budget line. If you look here at the State's total Management budget you will notice that there is requested one more FTE (Full Time Equivalent) than the previous year along with $4,159,401.00 in additional funding. The total for the Management budget is $49,791,498.00 for only 152.1 FTE's which breaks down to $327,360.28 per FTE. For Mesa County District Schools office of Superintendent and Executive Directors on page 27 of the budget receive $1,638,236.00 for only 8.6 FTE's. That equals $190,492.56 per FTE.
In looking at the District level allocations in the proposed budget you will notice another increase. The 2011-2012 fiscal year increase to $3,491,017,037.00 (yes this is in Billions of tax dollars) from the 2010-2011 budget of $3,180,288,681.00. That is a $310,728,356.00 increase. The current media is reporting a $250 Million decrease to school districts. VetTheGov is struggling to figure out how they are playing with the numbers and Per Pupil Funding (PPF) allocations. Here is Hick's latest proposal and YES VetTheGov was correct in that the cuts are coming from the increased line item so in reality there are no cuts but actual increases. If the above media story is correct that it ended up that only $250 million was decreased in the overall line item then it is over a $52.8 Million increase from last years budget. Also notice in the revised budget how they use the the Per Pupil Funding wording to state the funding decreased by $496.52 at the bottom of the page from the original proposed budget but not compared to last years budget. You have to love how the government plays the taxpayers!
VetTheGov followed the money trail on the actual funding monies provided to our local schools in Mesa County. CDE only has up to date financials from the 2008-2009 fiscal year. VetTheGov picked out a couple of interesting portions that create further questions. In the allocations to the three districts located in Mesa County the Per Pupil Funding (PPF) was significantly higher than being shown on Mesa County's PPF numbers. District 51 received $9,470.00 Per Pupil for 21,041.8 pupils for a total of $199,263,059.00. Note here the District shows $6,713.92 Per Pupil for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. These are the numbers we always hear in the media and so you can now see how they get skewed all the time. So where does the other $2756.08 go and why isn't this counted in overall PPF?
VetTheGov noticed a difference in benefit packages and allocations shown. Here you will observe for the same 2008-2009 fiscal year Mesa County School salaries and benefits. For District 51 the totals show $6,804.00 Per Pupil. Another interesting item to point out is the benefit package totals of $28,318,337.00. Per General Accounting procedures District 51 does not have to show totals of benefits that fund their retirement program called School District Trust Fund and Health Care Trust Fund in which both tie into the Public Employment Retirement Association (PERA). The district only mentions percentages which are 8% from member and 14.75% match by the State of the covered salary. Based on District 51 budget numbers they received $15,100,922.00 in revenue for Medical, Dental, and Insurance. This leaves $13,217,415.00 left over for PERA matches which do not appear in the budget but accounts for $628.15 Per Pupil. If you take out for PERA from the remaining $2,756.08 Per Pupil you still have $2,127.93 unaccounted for.
Here is where we find some interesting trends towards education. The first is called Title I Part A. From the website the purpose of these funds are, "funds support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum." This section of At-Risk programs found in the District 51 budget account for $20,324,070.00 or $965.89 Per Pupil. Again the media never tells you of these additional funds funneled through the District for these additional welfare type programs. If you read the top of the At-Risk section you will notice if a pupil is on the Free Lunch or Reduced Lunch program they are considered At-Risk. VetTheGov would like to point out that over 45% of pupils qualified for At-Risk programs. That means 9,756 pupils received free or reduced lunches while 11,686 did not.
There are also several media reports and more focus being driven towards health and fitness and yet District 51 has a deal in place with Coke. VetTheGov listens to media all the time that discussed these deals benefitted the schools budget and is why they approved vending machines into the schools. VetTheGov found that this again is another loser program with the only one benefitting being Swire Coca-Cola. As you can see the program hasn't made a dime since its inception and is currently on track to lose over $8,000.00 annually.
VetTheGov is currently researching PERA benefits and a couple of questions come to mind. First if you are in the PERA program which many are, What happens to your investment if the State of Colorado ever files BANKRUPTCY? Secondly for Taxpayers, what happens if the PERA funds continue to lose their investment ratio of 8%? Interesting to note PERA Operating budget for 2011 of $56,988,409.00 was approved by Board of Trustee's in November 2010.
Great charts and information on PERA: http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/01/colorados-pera-222-funding-plan.html
PERA paper by Dr. Barry Poulson: http://transparency.i2i.org/pera-transparency/
VetTheGov hopes you found this information helpful and we welcome any comments on this subject or any others of relevance.