SDIRC Budget

September 18 - Meeting with Dr. Rendell

I met with Superintendent Rendell regarding my questions and comments on the school district budget (Original questions posted below in July 31st Budget Hearing section). I wanted to share some of the answers I received. For those of you who have followed my back and forth with the school district since July, you know the questions and answers have evolved. And we are now on the 3rd budget book so figures and page numbers have changed. There are still a couple of things that Dr. Rendell will be following up on and hopefully will have answers for me soon. Here is what we discussed yesterday:


1. Stacey: How many vehicles will be purchased this year from capital outlay?  On page 110 of the 8/28/18 budget book there is a line item for $50,000 to buy “white fleet vehicles” and a reference in the budget to 5 vehicles being purchased. 


It has been noted that the ESE department has a transportation fleet that doesn’t accommodate those with disabilities. With a $160,000 potential transportation cost, it would seem that money would be better spent on purchasing vehicles that accommodate the students in our transition program. This would be a more student centered decision and a wiser use of those funds.


Rendell: No decision has been made. Although, the district probably won’t purchase all 10 buses so that will leave money from capital funds to perhaps purchase more vehicles for the white fleet and/or the transition program.


2. Stacey: In the initial budget book dated 7/31/18, Page 23, Project 616, Welding Program, there is $0.00 budget for this program.  If we are opening up the Treasure Coast Technical College this year, and touting the welding program, how can we have zero dollars budgeted for it?  Or is the money put into another department?  


Rendell: To date, approximately $357,485.13 has been spent to date on the Welding equipment and furniture for the industrial trades building.  The funds that would be used to support that program are contained in the Curriculum and Instruction Budget (p.84) Project 569 Special Operating Millage (Vocational). 


Stacey: In the 8/28/18 budget book there are 3 line items for the welding program. One is on page 23, project 616 for $2300. Two are on page 84 project 568 for $542,450 and project 569 for $120,990.64. For a total of $665,740.64. Why are there now 3 line items? How many students are in this program? 


Rendell: The $2300 is leftover money from last year. The other 2 project numbers are for all vocational programs across the district. The money is in the curriculum budget and Pam Dampier (Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum) makes the decision on how that money is spent. There are 100’s of students in the vocational program and approximately 30 in the welding program.


3. Stacey: In the 8/28/18 budget book IDEA is on page 117 and has a budget of $3,996,117. But the amendment in the 9/6/18 budget hearing puts it at $4,184,695.87 (page 1 of 2 Consent A.5). Where is the breakdown of how this money spent? There is also another figure of $3,934,000.72 on page 7 of 25 Consent B.2. Why?


Rendell: The figure on page 7 of 25, Consent B.2 is the funding figure. I’m not sure why the other figures contradict each other. I will look into it. 


NOTE: I met with Heather Clark (Director of ESE) and Lillian Martinez (Director of Student Services) and received the answer about the IDEA budget breakdown. There is a separate budget book for IDEA and was recently sent to the state for approval. When it is approved it will be available to look at. 


4. Stacey: In the superintendent budget there is something called the Naviance contract. What exactly is this program? Are we keeping data from this program to determine effectiveness and cost accountability? What are the tools it is providing to students and families? Do we use Naviance Insights or Naviance Insights Premium?


Rendell: Naviance is a career planning tool. It has a program for students to access to see what kind of careers they would like to go into. There is college application support, a scholarship bank, and videos by those in various careers to inspire students. There is also parent activity in 10th grade and parents can log in to see what their child is doing. We get updates from Naviance twice a year on usage reports and which schools are utilizing the service. We use Naviance Insights and it is a 5 year contract. Vero Beach High School uses this program consistently. 


5. Stacey: At the September 6, 2018 Budget Public Hearing I spoke about teachers having to pay for their own professional development. After I spoke you invited Liz Cannon (President of IRCEA, the teacher union) to clarify whether or my comments were true. She did clarify they were and it was mentioned that Pam Dampier and Liz Cannon were working together to solve some of these issues of teachers paying out of pocket. However, I’m still wondering how professional development for teachers is decided. 


Rendell:  The one Wednesday a month that we have early release is set aside for teacher professional development. We send out a survey to teachers and ask them to prioritize a list of professional development suggestions and also to suggest ideas. 


Stacey:  One thing that bothers me is that none of our teachers go to conferences. Conferences are valuable tools for professional development and if we send one teacher to a conference, they can bring back to other teachers what they learn. Why aren’t we sending teachers to conferences.


Rendell: I agree that conferences are valuable. That’s a school board decision. If they want to put money in the budget to send teachers to conferences, they can give me that direction. We also have a Title II Report that has professional development information and and I will get it to you.


6. Stacey:  There is still come confusion about the health insurance fund. After the 9/6/18 budget hearing I spoke with Liz Cannon and Ms. Pelletier from Finance. The unrestricted fund balance is on page 128 of the 8/28/18 budget book and is projected to be at a balance of $4,570,962 for the 2018-2019 school year.  I still don’t understand what the amendment amount was for (page 1 of 2, Consent A.2). Can you please explain.


Rendell: That amount is how much the fund has grown over the last year. There was a decrease of $329,608.85 due to claims. 


Stacey: So the decision has been made to not put more money into the fund, despite the promise to staff, because it is stable and has reached safe harbor. What if there is a large amount of claims and the fund balance falls below safe harbor. Where will the money come from to replace it? 


Rendell: It would come from the fund balance.


7. Stacey: I never received an answer to this question – page 81 (7/31/18 budget book) is the budget for Florida Virtual School.  The current budgeted request in the budget book is $15,625.52 more than requested at the 5-22-18 budget workshop.  At that workshop it was indicated that there are 32 students in his program.  With this budgeted amount, that would be $9,493.67 per student.  Which is $5668.78 more than an unweighted FTE grade 9-12.  Are we sharing costs for this program or is this just 32 of our students.  If so, $303,797.50 is a great deal of money for this program that only serves a small amount of students.  Additionally, at the 6/26 workshop meeting it was mentioned that we share FTE’s with other school districts.


Rendell: (handed me an email from Michael Arnett). 

Mr. Arnett: “My original project was for 35 FTE. 35 x $5389.62 (2017-2018 base allotment for virtual school) = $188,636.70. Virtual enrollment is over this already by 5 full time students and all of the part-time students. My projection for this year is 52 FTE. 52 x $5389.62 = $280,260.20 I do not know what the 2018-2019 base allotment for virtual school is. That will need to be built into the budget as well.” 


NOTE:  When I asked if we share FTE’s with other school districts Dr. Rendell said no because this was for Indian River Virtual. I pointed out that it said “Florida Virtual School” in the budget. He was unsure why and is going to follow up with Mr. Arnett. So it’s unclear which budget this is for.


8. Stacey: On page 18 of the 8/28/18 budget book, project 3202 Medicaid Reimbursement is $300,000. This is money billed to Medicaid for services provided in schools like OT, PT, etc. When the district receives this reimbursement, the money is expended into “Exceptional Student Education”, but how is that money used? 


Rendell: It is put into the ESE budget but you would have to look at the IDEA Budget Book to see how it is used. 


9. Stacey: On page 18 of the 8/28/18 budget book, project 3440 Gifts, Grants and Bequests is $956,748. This went up $443,501 from a month ago. In the 9/6/18 amendments the figure is $541,080.93 which is a decrease from the increase. Why? 


Rendell: This is money from the Learning Alliance for 9 3rd Grade Interventionists.  The money in the amendment is from last year. The budget went up after we got figures of costs from the Learning Alliance. 


10. Stacey: On page 18 of the 8/28/18 budget book, project 3491 Bus Fees is $95,000. What are bus fees?


Rendell: This is revenue money from the transportation costs to the 3 non-profits. 


11. Stacey: In the 8/28/18 budget book, on page 89, project 036 is  Consulting/Legal Fees. Last year was $9,146.25. This year is $50,853.75. An increase of $41,707.50. Why? 


Rendell: This is money set aside for employee investigations. One investigation can cost up to $20,000.


12. Stacey: Where in the budget is attorney fees?


Rendell: In the 8/28/18 budget book, page 79, project 036. 


Stacey: There is $449,050.92 in the budget for attorney fees. This is a decrease of $166,783 from last year. Why?


Rendell: The reduction is the amount the district will save in attorney fees from the NAACP out of court settlement. We save money since we don’t have to go to trial. Last year we spent $300,000 on that case.



13. Stacey: Do we have money budgeted for teacher and support staff negotiation outcomes (i.e. raises, health care cost relief)? 


Rendell: No. There used to be a line item but then it was used against the district during negotiations. Teachers wanted that money in the line item and expected it. We have no new money this year. If there are raises, we will have to cut something or go to the general fund for money. We need the state to give school districts more money each year. 



14. Stacey: Where are Charter Schools payment listed? 


Rendell: It is in the base funding for each school and under project 567 (millage). That is the actual amount we pay them.



15. Stacey: Why isn’t each department budget in the budget book?



Rendell: We could put them in. It would just make the book bigger. But if the School Board wanted to do that, we can.




September 6 - Budget Hearing Comments

   

1. Page 5 – How many vehicles will be purchased? 


Rendell: No vehicles have been purchased yet.  The budget request is for 10 School Buses and 5 Fleet vehicles.  We have yet to make a final decision.


Stacey: Will that decision be made before the budget is approved? 


I received no response.  


I’ve been asking around and it seems like we have plenty of vehicles that have low mileage but are just older. We don’t need to spend more money just to have nicer looking vehicles.

I see on page 110 there is a line item for $50,000 to buy “white fleet vehicles” and a reference in the budget to 5 vehicles being purchased. 

Additionally, at the last business meeting it was noted that the ESE department has a transportation fleet that doesn’t accommodate those with disabilities.  With a $160,000 potential transportation cost, it would seem that money would be better spent on purchasing vehicles that accommodate the students in our transition program. This would be a more student centered decision and a wiser use of those funds.


2. Page 23 – Project 616 Welding Program.  There is $0.00 for this program.  If we are opening up the Treasure Coast Technical College this year, and touting the welding program, how can we have zero dollars budgeted for it?  Or is the money put into another department? 


Rendell: To date, approximately $357,485.13 has been spent to date on the Welding equipment and furniture for the industrial trades building.  The funds that would be used to support that program are contained in the Curriculum and Instruction Budget (p.84) Project 569 Special Operating Millage (Vocational). 


Stacey: To clarify, the budget for welding this year is $542,450 or does that encompass all the programs at the technical college?


I didn’t receive an answer.


Now in the newest budget book there are 3 line items for the welding program.

One is on page 23, project 616 for $$2300

Two are on page 84 project 568 for $542,450 and project 569 for $120,990.64. 

For a total of $665,740.64

Why are there now 3 line items? How many students are in this program? 


3. In my August 24th response I noted that Revenue Code 3230 IDEA on page 110 has the IDEA budget breakdown. I mentioned my concern that we have $4,242,200 for this but no breakdown of how this money is used. 

In the new budget book IDEA is on page 117 and now has a budget of $3,996,117. But the amendment in tonight’s budget puts it at $4,184,695.87 on page 1 of 2 Consent A.5. Where is the breakdown of how this money spent? Having large sums of money but no breakdown lacks transparency. I, personally, would like to know how that money is spent.


Answer from meeting with Heather Clark (Director of ESE):  There is a separate budget for IDEA which will be available after approval from the state. 

Page 111 is the correct IDEA staff funding figure.

Some staff is paid through 2 resources – Behavior Interventionists are paid 55% from IDEA, 45% from general fund. So 55% of their time is tied to students in ESE. 


4. Rendell: Gifted Services 

SDIRC serves approximately 709 students of the gifted in grades K-12, the 4 teachers of the gifted (4.0 FTE) included in the 2018-2019 draft budget book are paid from ESE General funds. There are several other teachers throughout the district that are certified in gifted education and other content areas that provide services to our gifted students.    


Stacey: Where can I find the ESE General Fund in the budget book so I can see how much is being spent on the gifted program? 


I didn’t receive an answer. 


In the new budget book page 70 is for ESE School Wide. Is this the ESE General Fund you were referring to? Project 093 is Exceptional (Gifted Services) has $0 budgeted for this year. In 2013-14 there was $280,834.51 for this program but the last 3 years has been $0. Why? If we are paying staff for this program there should be money in it. 


5. In the superintendent budget there is something called the Naviance contract. On the first budget book it was on Page 77 and was nearly double what it has been for the last 3 years.  It is $99,905.48 this year, which is $49,953.99 more than last year.  I asked why and if we are keeping data from this program?  How is the data directing our instruction in schools?  Does the superintendent use Naviance Insights or Naviance Insights Premium?  



Rendell: The way the expenditure is presented is confusing.  The cost of Naviance is $49,950 each year.  There are two years remaining on the contract so Mr. Morrison presents the expenditure as two years worth of costs in budgeting for the upcoming year.  This practice was discussed regarding another multi-year contract at a budget workshop earlier in the year.  If you go back and look at last years budget book, the budgeted amount was about $150,000 because there were three years left on the contract.  We use the data from Naviance to shape curricular offerings, but the benefit of Naviance is the tools it provides our students and families – beginning in 7th grade. 


Stacey: Yes, that is confusing, and makes no sense. Why are we not budgeting for just THIS year? It appears deceiving and as if the district is setting aside money this year that they know won’t be used. It creates an unequal budget. 


Again, are we keeping data from this program to determine effectiveness and cost accountability?


What are the tools it is providing to students and families?


Again, do we use Naviance Insights or Naviance Insights Premium?


Also, I’ve asked some parents and 7th and 8th grade students about this program and no one has ever heard of it and have no idea what it is. Can you please clarify what this program is specifically and what the “tools” are to the students and families. 


6. Dr Rendell: As an aside, most of our professional development comes from Title II Funds, which are noted on p.110.


Stacey: There is $777,559 for Title II on page 10. If teachers are having to pay for their own professional development, and the district is not reimbursing them, what is this money used for? Who decides how this money is used? Is this money being used for recruitment? 


I didn’t get an answer.


The funding amount has changed to $627,461 for Title II. I’m still concerned that teachers are having to pay for their own professional development, and the district is not reimbursing them. Who decides how this money is used? Is this money being used for recruitment or just PD? Who decides on the professional development? Do teachers have a say?  


7. Page 120 – The district made a promise to staff to pay $7 million dollars into Safe Harbor for the health insurance.  Two payments have been made - $2.3 million and $1.56 million.  This year the district is supposed to make another $1.56 million payment.  However, Mr. Morrison indicated at the last budget meeting that he wants to wait on that payment until he gets clarification from the insurance advisor/agent on whether that payment needs to be made.  As a result, there is no money budgeted for that payment.  What happens if that payment needs to be made?  Where will the money come from?  Budgeting on a “what if” doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to me.  Not only that, but because of this error, the district made a promise to employees that this $7 million would be paid and that it would not fall on the staff to make it up.  Yet our staff has had increasing medical costs.  This $1.56 million payment needs to be put in the budget.  


Rendell: At the workshop on Tuesday it was clear that the transfer is not mandatory.  The safe harbor amount has already been reached.  That said, the Board can direct staff to make a transfer at any time.  The transfer would come from the general fund reserves.


Stacey: I was at the workshop on Tuesday. I would like to point out something Mr. Searcy said. On June 30, 2017 the fund was at $3,913,992. On June 30, 2018 the fund was at $3,613,487. A decrease of $300,505. The fund is already declining. That’s clear. And that is with teachers and staff helping make up the balance, something they were told wouldn’t happen. So, with a fund balance in decline, the district is opting to not make another transfer? How is this fiscally responsible? While it might not be mandatory, the district made a promise to its staff to fund the safe harbor. Not doing so, reneges on a promise to staff. 


Making a large transfer of money like that at any time is irresponsible. It would potentially take money away from students, teachers and schools at the drop of a hat. 


Now, in tonight’s agenda on page 1 of 2 Consent A.2 shows the revised fund balance at $1,095,468.58 which is a decrease of $329,608.85. This is shocking. How can you not put money into the safe harbor fund?  By not funding this account you are putting the district and staff health care at risk. I would highly recommend you make another payment into that safe harbor fund. 


UPDATE: I see where the fund balance is in the new budget book, but I don’t understand what the amendment amount was for. Can you please explain.


8. Page 81 - Florida Virtual School.  The current budgeted request in the budget book is $15,625.52 more than requested at the 5-22-18 budget workshop.  At that workshop it was indicated that there are 32 students in his program.  With this budgeted amount, that would be $9,493.67 per student.  Which is $5668.78 more than an unweighted FTE grade 9-12.  Are we sharing costs for this program or is this just 32 of our students.  If so, $303,797.50 is a great deal of money for this program that only serves a small amount of students. 


Stacey: This question didn’t get answered and I still haven’t received a response. Can you please answer this.


9. Page 18 of the new budget book.


Project 3202 Medicaid Reimbursement - $300,000. This is money billed to Medicaid for services provided in schools like OT, PT, etc. When the district receives this reimbursement, the money is expended into “Exceptional Student Education”, but how is that money used? 

Project 3440 – Gifts, Grants and Bequests - $ 956,748. This went up $443,501 from a month ago.  Now tonight in the amendments the figure is $541,080.93 Which is a decrease from the increase. Why? 


Project 3491 – Bus Fees - $95,000. 

What are bus fees?


10. Page 89, Project 036 – Consulting/Legal Fees. Last year was $9,146.25. This year is $50,853.75. An increase of $41,707.50. Why? 


11. Comments: 


Where in the budget is attorney fees?


Do we have money budgeted for teacher negotiation outcomes (i.e. raises, health care cost relief)? 


Do we have money budgeted for support staff negotiation outcomes (i.e. raises, health care cost relief)?


This budget is extremely difficult to read. Line items and projects are abbreviated and there is no explanation of what they are. Budgets aren’t broken down and accountable. Tonight’s amendments don’t have project numbers on them for cross reference.  We need to have a more transparent and readable budget for the general public. With all the issues of money disappearing and being found, it would be prudent to have a budget that taxpayers can read and understand. The district needs to be making budget driven decisions and you can’t do that when your budget layout isn’t aligned. 


Someone once said that a government that is beyond the reach of accountability has little incentive to tell the truth. I fear this is becoming true in this district. This budget layout and process needs to change.  

July 31st - Budget Hearing Comments

On July 31st the School District held a public hearing on the tentative budget for the 2018-2019 school year.  I was the only person at this hearing to make comments.  I am also the only candidate to attend the school district budget meetings since April.  


The budget is approximately $287 million dollars.  As a school board member, the budget is an integral part of your job.  That is why I have made it a priority and have attended the meetings and spent many hours dissecting and researching line items and sources.  Even after all my work, I still have many questions and there are still many items that are unclear to me.  But I also know that numbers, or lack of numbers, should add up.  Here are questions (and a link to the budget book) that I asked the school board on July 31st.  As of today, August 6th, I still have not received any answers.  


The budget book starts on page 233 as Action A if you want to look at the pages I am referencing.  https://www.indianriverschools.org/images/school-board/2018-2019-Meetings/Agendas/2018-07-24-Business-Meeting-Agenda-Packet.pdf


UPDATE:  I received a response from Dr. Rendell on August 16.  I have included his responses and my follow up questions below.

  

   

1. Page 6 – How many vehicles will be purchased? 


Rendell: No vehicles have been purchased yet.  The budget request is for 10 School Buses and 5 Fleet vehicles.  We have yet to make a final decision.


Stacey: Will that decision be made before the budget is approved?


2. Page 19 – Line item 3, Education for the Handicapped.  I emailed Carter Morrison and asked him what this money was.  He said that it was a mistake and that the district had not received any money for this since the 2015-2016 school year.  However, it is in the budget THIS year.  As of April 30, 2018 it shows the district has received 2.7 million dollars year to date.  When I again emailed Mr. Morrison and asked why it was in the budget this year, I received no response.  Obviously if there wasn’t any money coming in, yet the district claims there was, the question is how are we spending and balancing a budget with non-existent money? 


Rendell: I am not sure why there are any funds associated with that project in the 2015-2016 column on that page.  All of Project 3230 is part of the Federal funds outlined on p.110.


Stacey: I am not sure either and it is very concerning to claim the district has revenue of $2.7 million when it actuality hasn’t. 


3. Page 23 – Project 616 Welding Program.  There is $0.00 for this program.  If we are opening up the Treasure Coast Technical College this year, and touting the welding program, how can we have zero dollars budgeted for it?  Or is the money put into another department? 


Rendell: To date, approximately $357,485.13 has been spent to date on the Welding equipment and furniture for the industrial trades building.  The funds that would be used to support that program are contained in the Curriculum and Instruction Budget (p.84) Project 569 Special Operating Millage (Vocational). 


Stacey: To clarify, the budget for welding this year is $542,450 or does that encompass all the programs at the technical college?


4.       Page 27 – Rosewood Elementary has no ESE Instructional Aides listed in the staff allocation.  Since my son goes to this school, and is in ESE, I know for a fact that there are instructional aides.  Why does this budget not include them?


Rendell: ESE Teacher Assistants

Rosewood Elementary currently has four full-time ESE teacher assistants (4.0 FTE) on staff.  The four positions did not appear in the 2018-2019 draft budget book as their salaries are paid 100% through the IDEA grant.


Stacey: I see on page 111 the IDEA Staffing Summary. I am going to assume that the “ESE Teacher Assistant 6-21” is where these staff members are located. There are 47 budgeted for this year. Is this correct? 


I also see Revenue Code 3230 IDEA on page 110 but am wondering where the IDEA budget breakdown is. It concerns me that we have $4,242,200 for this but no breakdown of how this money is used. 


5.       Page 70 – In looking at each individual school that has a gifted program there are $0.00 budgeted in each school for this program.  Yet on page 70 under the staff allocation, there are 4.00 staff for the gifted program.  How can there be no money but 4 staff members?  Is the money coming from another department?  Also, on that page there are 6 occupational therapists, 23.6 speech and language pathologists, and 1 physical therapist.  How is one physical therapist addressing the needs of all the children in the school district?  Are we contracting out with physical therapists?  


Rendell: Therapies and Related Services

SDIRC employees 25 full and part-time speech-language pathologists (23.6 FTE), 6  full and part-time occupational therapists (5.1 FTE), and 1 full-time physical therapist (1.0 FTE).  Allocations and assignments are based on IEP-driven services and student needs, and are reviewed quarterly. District staff uses comparison data from surrounding size-alike districts, as well as national averages, to determine reasonable caseloads in order to recruit and retain highly-qualified staff. The district also utilizes contracted services on an as-needed basis.


Stacey: The one physical therapist the district had quit before school started. My son received PT as part of his IEP. To my knowledge the district still hasn’t hired a PT to replace that lost position. Which means that is a violation of my child’s IEP. I am sure there are other IEP’s that include PT services. What is being done about this? This could lead to federal violations.


Rendell: Gifted Services 

SDIRC serves approximately 709 students of the gifted in grades K-12, the 4 teachers of the gifted (4.0 FTE) included in the 2018-2019 draft budget book are paid from ESE General funds. There are several other teachers throughout the district that are certified in gifted education and other content areas that provide services to our gifted students.    


Stacey: Where can I find the ESE General Fund in the budget book so I can see how much is being spent on the gifted program? 


6.       Page 77 – The Naviance contract is nearly double what it has been for the last 3 years.  It is $99,905.48 this year, which is $49,953.99 more than last year.  Why?  Additionally, are we keeping data from this program?  How is the data directing our instruction in schools?  Does the superintendent use Naviance Insights or Naviance Insights Premium?  


Rendell: The way the expenditure is presented is confusing.  The cost of Naviance is $49,950 each year.  There are two years remaining on the contract so Mr. Morrison presents the expenditure as two years worth of costs in budgeting for the upcoming year.  This practice was discussed regarding another multi-year contract at a budget workshop earlier in the year.  If you go back and look at last years budget book, the budgeted amount was about $150,000 because there were three years left on the contract.  We use the data from Naviance to shape curricular offerings, but the benefit of Naviance is the tools it provides our students and families – beginning in 7th grade. 


Stacey: Yes, that is confusing, and makes no sense. Why are we not budgeting for just THIS year? It appears deceiving and as if the district is setting aside money this year that they know won’t be used. It creates an unequal budget. 


Again, are we keeping data from this program to determine effectiveness and cost accountability?


What are the tools it is providing to students and families?


Again, do we use Naviance Insights or Naviance Insights Premium?


Under Neola the budget proposed at the 5/22/18 meeting was $5000 for travel.  Is that for Dr. Rendell to travel or for Neola people to travel here?  That is a lot of money for travel. 


Rendell: That is the amount we budget for travel for NEOLA (for them to travel).  They have to bill us (with documentation) for reimbursement.  I do not believe we have ever reached that threshold, but we budget for that amount. 


Stacey: Got it.


7.       Page 79 – Looking at each school and the Districtwide Services budget, the district has absolutely no money set aside for the achievement gap.  With an average of 30% gap between our white and black students, this should be a high priority in every school.  Any group of students falling behind should be a priority.  Addressing this in a district committee is not going to solve the problem this district faces.  


Rendell: That is an old project line that we do not use (have not since 2014).  Those funds have been distributed to fund programs that impact student achievement and closing the gap.  It is a high priority in every school.  You may recall in the discussions as we were crafting the Strategic Plan, we wove equity and improving achievement for ALL students throughout the plan. And, our results do indicate that minority student achievement has increased so we are addressing the closing of the gap.


Stacey: I have read the 2018-2019 African American Achievement Plan. The data from 2017-2018 on page 7 is troubling. For example, in 3rd grade ELA the achievement gap is 34.5%. In 7th grade Math it is 41.3%.  


In the above mentioned plan, the data from 2016-2017 is on page 2. In grades 3-10 on the FSA ELA there were just as many declines in progress as there were gains when comparing 2015-2016 to 2016-2017. For the same comparison years and grades in FSA Math 5 grades showed decreases while only 1 showed an increase. These aren’t great gains and shows our students are not progressing.


The new goal you have laid out on page 2 is ambitious and will take a great deal of intervention and support. I will be interested to see how that plan progresses. 


8.       Page 84 – Project 545, Teacher Salary Allocation.  This project may not be where this particular concern is located.  Negotiations with our teachers and CWA union have stalled since Bruce Green left.  Before he left, there were requests made for additional pay and relief from the health costs.  It would be prudent to ensure there was money in the budget in the event that negotiations did call for monetary supplements.  


Rendell: Again, this is an old project line that was probably used to pay teachers supplemental work done outside of their contract hours.  For example to attend a training on the weekend.


Stacey: Then do we have money budgeted for teacher negotiation outcomes (i.e. raises, health care cost relief)? 


Do we have money budgeted for support staff negotiation outcomes (i.e. raises, health care cost relief)?


9.       Page 86 – There are no staff allocations for the additional mental health program requirements.  The Marjory Stoneman Douglas/Parkland bill required mental health services in each school district.  The SDIRC plan calls for 5 Social Workers and a Mental Health Coordinator.  Those staff positions are not listed. 


Rendell: The positions were not listed because the plan had not been approved yet (was on that night’s business agenda).  The funds are allocated in the budget on p.86 Project 604 Mental Health Allocations.


Stacey: Got it. I will assume that they will be in the final budget and look for them there. 


10.   Page 89 – In staff services at the 6/12/18 budget meeting there was $14,400 set aside for recruitment.  A few months ago there was a Twitter post of staff in either Michigan or Minnesota, I believe, recruiting teachers.  Research shows that college students go to college where they want to live.  We need to use this money recruiting here in Florida and surrounding states.  My opinion is we need more money for recruiting.  We need to get aggressive with recruiting.  My son didn’t have a teacher all of last year, as you know.  When we can’t get teachers, we have students who are not getting the appropriate education they are entitled too.  And in the case of my son, he lost a great deal of academic gains.  Recruitment should be of high priority for this district. 


Rendell: The recruiting trip to Michigan is a common practice.  Michigan is a state with a strong set of teacher colleges and produces more college of Ed graduates than they can hire (statewide).  We hired dozens of teachers from Michigan when I was in St. Lucie.  This year we made several offers but were only able to secure one teacher from that trip.  We will evaluate the return on investment, as it may take some time to establish a presence with the colleges/students up there, but usually a Michigan trip produces great results.


Stacey: Like I said, research shows college students go to school where they want to live. Heavy recruiting in Florida should be looked into. I’ve done a great deal of research on recruiting and have some ideas if you are ever open to the idea. 


11.   Page 91 – At the 5/22/18 budget workshop there was a proposal from the curriculum department to hire a “Coordinator of Professional Development”.  The reasoning was that the Fundations and Smart Horizons programs would no longer be utilized in the schools so that money could be used for this new position along with a “District Literacy Specialist”.  The cost of the Coordinator of Professional Development position would be $94,600 with benefits.  With the budgeted amount under Teacher Cert/Staff Development, if this position was filled it would lower this budget to $37,335.20.  Where then would money for professional development come from?  As it is now, the district requires teachers to pay for a lot of their own professional development.  They aren’t paid stipends or comp time.  If we want high quality teachers in our district we need to financially support their professional development.  Doing so would improve morale and lead to better retention.  District imposed professional development does not support our teachers in their professional goals.  


Rendell: I am not sure what the question is here.  The position, if it had been approved, would not have been subtracted from the overall budget for this department ($131,953.20).  That budget is made up of mostly of existing salary expenses and categorical funds, such as the grant for leadership and development.  The funds would have been added into this account for the purpose of that position.  As an aside, most of our professional development comes from Title II Funds, which are noted on p.110.


Stacey: If the funds are added to this account for the purpose of that position, where would that money come from/out of? 


There is $777,559 for Title II on page 10. If teachers are having to pay for their own professional development, and the district is not reimbursing them, what is this money used for? Who decides how this money is used? Is this money being used for recruitment? 


12.   Page 120 – The district made a promise to staff to pay $7 million dollars into Safe Harbor for the health insurance.  Two payments have been made - $2.3 million and $1.56 million.  This year the district is supposed to make another $1.56 million payment.  However, Mr. Morrison indicated at the last budget meeting that he wants to wait on that payment until he gets clarification from the insurance advisor/agent on whether that payment needs to be made.  As a result, there is no money budgeted for that payment.  What happens if that payment needs to be made?  Where will the money come from?  Budgeting on a “what if” doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to me.  Not only that, but because of this error, the district made a promise to employees that this $7 million would be paid and that it would not fall on the staff to make it up.  Yet our staff has had increasing medical costs.  This $1.56 million payment needs to be put in the budget.  


Rendell: At the workshop on Tuesday it was clear that the transfer is not mandatory.  The safe harbor amount has already been reached.  That said, the Board can direct staff to make a transfer at any time.  The transfer would come from the general fund reserves.


Stacey: I was at the workshop on Tuesday. I would like to point out something Mr. Searcy said. On June 30, 2017 the fund was at $3,913,992. On June 30, 2018 the fund was at $3,613,487. A decrease of $300,505. The fund is already declining. That’s clear. And that is with teachers and staff helping make up the balance, something they were told wouldn’t happen. So, with a fund balance in decline, the district is opting to not make another transfer? How is this fiscally responsible? While it might not be mandatory, the district made a promise to its staff to fund the safe harbor. Not doing so, reneges on a promise to staff.  

Making a large transfer of money like that at any time is irresponsible. It would potentially take money away from students, teachers and schools at the drop of a hat.  


13. Page 81 - Florida Virtual School.  The current budgeted request in the budget book is $15,625.52 more than requested at the 5-22-18 budget workshop.  At that workshop it was indicated that there are 32 students in his program.  With this budgeted amount, that would be $9,493.67 per student.  Which is $5668.78 more than an unweighted FTE grade 9-12.  Are we sharing costs for this program or is this just 32 of our students.  If so, $303,797.50 is a great deal of money for this program that only serves a small amount of students. 


Stacey: This question didn’t get answered.


Stacey: 

Additional questions/comments:

It was my understanding that there would be more budget meetings after the July 31st public hearing. But there hasn’t been any that are open to the public. Today I noticed that there is another School Board meeting scheduled to approve the budget on September 6, 2018. Will a new budget book be printed before that day so the public can get a copy to look at it? 


At the May 9th Taxpayers’ Association of Indian River County meeting, you gave a “State of the School District” report. During your presentation I said the following: “In 2016 the school district hired the District Management Council to study and report on the state of the district’s struggling students, including ESE students. This report cost the taxpapers $150,00 at last count. ESE students make up about 15% of students in our district.” You responded that that figure was incorrect and that the district had only paid the DMC about $50,000.  I noticed on page 84, Project 574, that in fact the district paid $147,750 to DMC for services. Yes, I was off a couple of thousand, but it more accurate than the figure you gave.