By Carla Branch
Seven months into fiscal year 2013, the Alexandria School Board has just received financial reports for July-December, 2012. Tonight, the Board’s Budget and Audit Committee will review that information with Alexandria City Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Stacey Johnson and other members of the ACPS staff.
School Board policy DI-1 requires the ACPS superintendent to submit monthly financial reports to the School Board for their review and approval no later than the end of the month following the period for which the report is submitted. The previous School Board reviewed and approved the monthly financial report for May, 2012, at the Nov. 19, 2012, meeting. On Dec. 3, 2012, the previous Board reviewed and approved the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2012. The previous Board did not review or approve any monthly financial report for the six months of FY2013, for which they had oversight.
Board members Karen Graf, Bill Campbell and Patricia Hennig comprise the Budget and Audit Committee. “This is unacceptable,” said Hennig, the Chair of the Committee. “First of all, there is a Board policy that requires the staff to submit monthly financial reports for our review and approval. Second, we are being asked to review financial activities that occurred before we were elected. We asked for all of the budget transfer documents in addition to the monthly financial reports and we just got the information on Friday. I have a lot of questions.”
The data, which was presented, shows 226 budget transfers between October and December, an average of 75 per month. Of those, 207 were transfers within the operating budget and 19 were transfers within the Capital Improvement Program budget over which the City has control. After last year’s CIP problems, which resulted in the resignation or dismissal of a number of ACPS finance personnel, the City Council required ACPS to submit CIP transfer requests to City finance staff prior to allocating the money. ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman has the authority to approve any budget transfer within the operating budget under $15,000 without Board approval. All of the 207 transfers during the second quarter of FY2013 are beneath that threshold. Hennig and the other members of the Budget and Audit Committee plan to question staff about where the money came from, where it went and why there was a need for the transfer.
City Council has no authority over how ACPS spends its operating budget once a budget is approved. That oversight rests with the School Board. City code does require that ACPS provide the City’s finance staff with a list of check disbursements each month. CFO Laura Triggs uses that information in her monthly financial reports to Council. On Jan. 8, 2013, Council reviewed the November, 2012, financial report because Council did not have a second legislative meeting in December. The November report indicated that ACPS had spent $55,608,966 as of Nov. 30, 2012. This is 31% of ACPS’ total revised FY2013 operating budget of $179,486,405.
The full School Board will review the six monthly financial statements for FY2013 at Thursday night’s meeting.