Oversight of Extracurricular Money
Can you recall a favorite field trip in your youth? As beneficial as these activities are, they can present a school board with some special challenges. When providing oversight for cash associated with extra-classroom activities, the board must be alert to the possibility of skimming.
Costly Tax Loopholes for Schools
Multistate corporations are not paying their fair share of income taxes, resulting in less revenue that can be passed down to your district. By taking advantage of loopholes in the law, these corporations are paying far less than they could – and should. Here are some examples to study.
Stopping School Fraud
Education fraud cases typically result in average losses of $71,000. Board members might assume that factors such as high levels of responsibility, employment longevity, and advanced educational background ensure ethical behavior in district employees. But this is not necessarily true. Losses tend to rise with an employee’s level of responsibility.
Board Financial Accountibility
Attempts to drive change from outside are doomed to fail more often than not. A number of school districts beat the odds by using a task force of board members to make recommendations for governance improvement, who “sell” the recommendations to their board colleagues, with behind-the-scenes assistance from a consultant.
School Construction Loans
The federal government has allocated nearly $24 billion in bonds over the next two years to help districts build, repair, and renovate school sites, and in some cases, improve curriculum and teacher quality. These monies are part of the Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB) and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB).
Good Land Stewards
Land transactions involving public entities such as school districts have a long history of being tainted by questionable ethics and financial abuse. Many pitfalls await districts preparing to engage in land transactions. The potential for conflicts of interest, environmental problems, and soil contamination require that your board be alert and well informed.
Sound Investment Policy for School Boards
Of critical importance to the board’s process of financial decision-making is the development of a comprehensive investment policy. A well-constructed policy heightens awareness of the potential risks when selecting investment opportunities and defines the level of tolerable risk. Here are some investment risks districts encounter in today’s financial environment.
Tapping Your Reserve Funds
Anticipating an expensive project in the future, districts often accrue financial reserves, but preplanning is not always possible when a boiler fails or a school needs emergency roof repairs. There are alternatives for tapping into reserves to generate cash. One option is issuing a bond; another is using derivative transactions.
School Board's Oversight Role
Effective oversight requires adequate preparation. Be earnest in learning how your district operates. When agenda items are unfamiliar or confusing, ask questions. If explanations are not sufficient, seek further information. Being a good steward of public monies is one of your most important and challenging responsibilities.
Saving Money on Student Transportation
Few images are more iconic to public education than the yellow school bus. However, transportation has suffered in this economy, forcing schools to trim, consolidate, privatize, charge fees, and in some cases, eliminate the service entirely. Fortunately, few departments are more adept at navigating the bumpy road ahead than transportation.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
While the economy continues to recover, you may be able to save your taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. All it takes is a willingness to explore the possibilities of learning about the other three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Everything old is new again during a recession.
Offering Benefits in a Downturn
Once used in bargaining sessions and as bait to lure grads and career-switchers into the demanding but low-paying teaching profession, benefits like lucrative pensions and comprehensive health care plans are burdening districts. Fortunately, solutions exist – and some measures don’t require any additional money.
Dealing with Decline
Faced with a nearly $800,000 cut in state funding, Peach County, Ga., school officials decided last fall to switch to a four-day school week. These days, Byron Elementary lies silent on Mondays, its front door locked, its hallways dark, and its classrooms empty.
The Benefits of Consortiums
Funding difficulties will continue into the foreseeable future, which has led many districts to form consortiums. A consortium is an association of two or more organizations participating in a venture that requires substantial resources to achieve a common goal. There are many opportunities to collaborate, and the potential for savings is significant.
A Steep Decline
The “good” news on state budgets is that it could have been worse: The federal stimulus package kept many states and school districts from falling off a financial cliff, as programs and personnel were spared. The “bad” news is that, as stimulus funds are rapidly spent, the cliff is approaching again.
Oversight Can Lessen Business Risks
Boards are under increased pressure to safeguard the funding they do have and spend it wisely. Take time now to determine how taxpayer money is being used. A comprehensive review of your district’s budget, along with a financial risk assessment, can help. Resources are available to assist you with these projects.
Safety Is Your Mission
Whether danger arises from within the school community or from the outside, school violence remains a serious, recurring problem. School boards have always strived to provide a safe learning environment. During tough economic times, it is difficult to reallocate resources. However, safety is essential to fulfill your district’s mission of providing quality educational services to the community.
School Boards and the 403(b) Plan
Does your district have a 403(b)? It is a tax-sheltered, retirement savings plan for public school employees and certain other tax-exempt organizations. To determine if your district’s plan meets new legal requirements, become familiar with the measures currently used to ensure compliance and manage contributions and transfers to accounts.
Make Sure Your Students Are Counted
This spring, the federal government will launch the 2010 census. For school boards, the most obvious impact of the census will be on future funding. Whether school boards get their fair share of these funds, however, remains a concern. The census historically undercounts young children and some disadvantaged populations.
Should You Serve Universal Breakfast?
Breakfast, sadly, is a disappearing morning ritual. Only 35 percent of parents with elementary-age children and 22 percent of parents of middle and high school students eat breakfast with their kids every day. Schools are trying to fill in the gaps; universal breakfast is back on the table.