Friday afternoon the Appropriations committee met to continue discussions around priorities for the second session. Joined by Suzan Beaudoin, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Education, the committee pursued questions about apparent differences in amounts appropriated for General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA) and the total subsidy sent to school districts.
After this meeting members conferred late into the night in an effort to craft a supplemental budget that addresses many of the most urgent needs facing our state while and not foreclosing discussion on others.
Below are questions posed to the Department of Education and their responses. The committee has further questions.
Questions from Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs
Why must funds from the prior year surpluses be set aside for state agency clients when those types of expenses are also included in the miscellaneous cost budget.
- These are not surpluses but carrying funds from FY15 General Purpose Aid for Local Schools and they include both school subsidy funds and funds from the miscellaneous costs category.
- These funds all reside in single State account for General Purpose Aid for Local Schools pursuant to 20-A MRSA §15689-E(1).
- The funds are carried to support accounts payable for FY15 obligations. Accounts Payables such as but not limited to:
- subsidy withheld for reporting non-compliance ($2.9m) and
- invoices not yet received in time for payment prior to June 30th for those miscellaneous costs such as:
- Special education services for state wards and state agency clientS ($5.9m 185 invoices),
- Data management & support services for EPS ($1.5m)– invoices for maintenance & support on student information system, invoice for services on the DOE data warehouse system, invoices for OIT application development & project management,
- Final invoices/payment for several areas of miscellaneous costs ($1.5m)
- For the 2014-15 fiscal year, PL 2015 Ch. 267, Part C requires the expenditure of $943,846,108 in order to meet the 46.80% State share percentage set in statute (20-A MRSA §15671(7)(B)).
The amounts run through the funding formula do not add up to the total state contribution in fiscal year 2016-17 (a difference of $11,120,652) nor in fiscal year 2015-16 (a difference of $1,201,340). What accounts for the difference between total state contribution between the total of the component ports?
- This is difficult to answer without knowing how (what documents/spreadsheets) these particular amounts ($11,120,652 and $1,201,340) were determined — in order to understand what funds have been included and excluded.
- However, I suspect the figures may have been developed using the spreadsheet version on the Department of Education EPS website. Based on that assumption, these figures are (both years) still preliminary figures for some units — more so for 2016-17 than 2015-16.
- For many units there will not be any or few future updates but for a number of units there are amounts that are not included at this time. For 2016-17:
- pending bonds debt for school construction (2 projects — Sanford and RSU 72),
- pending sudden & severe adjustment (2 towns —Jay and Old Town),
- pending corrections for individual units (i.e. pending Lewiston Spec Ed, correction),
- spring updates for hi-cost special education out-of-district placements, other pending miscellaneous updates (i.e. bus adjustments).
- The spreadsheets versions are only a snap shot in time and will not reflect some updates to the ED279s that are on-going throughout the fiscal year.
- Some of the 2016-17 ED279s have already been updated since the 3/17/2016 posting these changes are not reflected in the spreadsheet version.
Why is there such a disparity between the differences in each of the cited financial years?
- Again, this is difficult to answer without knowing how these particular amounts were determined.
- However, the likely reason is that 2015-16 ED279s are more complete or updated at this time than the 2016-17 ED279s.
- The only pending updates for 2015-16 ED279s are for adjustments for High-Cost Special Education Out-of-District placements. The SAUs will submit a report this April and the affected ED279s will be updated by May or June.