On September 18, 2018 Vero Beach resident Stacey Klim met with Superintendent Dr. Mark Rendell regarding her questions and comments on the School District of Indian River County budget. We wanted to share her exchange with Dr. Rendell and his response to her questions.
Free Bing Image of Dr. Mark Rendell
For those of you who have followed her back and forth with the school district since July, you know the questions and answers have evolved. 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 with Ms. Klim and hopefully he will have answers for her soon. Here is what they discussed yesterday:
KLIM: 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).
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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: Ms. Klim 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.
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KLIM: In the superintendent’s 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: There is still some 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.
KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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 $5,668.78 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 her an email from Michael Arnett).
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 Ms. Klim asked if we share FTE’s with other school districts, Dr. Rendell said no because this was for Indian River Virtual. She 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: Where in the budget is attorney fees?
RENDELL: In the 8/28/18 budget book, page 79, project 036.
KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
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KLIM: 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.
This conversation was posted to provide information for those interested various line items in the School District budget.
Stacey Klim is a candidate for School District School Board, District Four.
This posting does not constitute an endorsement.