School Board Changes Financial Review Policy

Board members decide they don’t need to get copies of hundreds of pages of spending records every month

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The Payson Unified School District Board voted to save themselves time and the district paper by no longer requiring the administration to give each board member a thick binder that every month details the spending at each school.

However, each month one school board member will still have the job of paging through the hundreds of pages of invoices and billing records.

“I think there are a lot of checks and balances” even without the review of the records by school board members, said board president Barbara Underwood.

“I’m not sure that we would catch anything anyway.”

“We might notice a bill for $16 muffins,” joked board member Kim Pound, in reference to recent national headlines generated by the release of budget documents that U.S. Justice Department had paid $16 per muffin at a conference for employees.

Underwood had originally suggested the administration stop distributing the binders full of spending records to each board member unless an individual board member asked for a copy in a given month.

However, Pound suggested that the board set up a system to rotate responsibility for looking through the spending records each month.

The board unanimously adopted the policy change with that amendment.

The board’s action to cut down on oversight and paperwork came in the wake of the recent 50 percent increase in the district’s property tax rate, which took some board members by surprise.

The administration in consultation with the Gila County assessor’s office set the tax rate, which is mostly controlled by state formulas.

However, a $1 million gap between the projected budget and the actual budget two years ago also contributed to the 50 percent property tax increase.

The district must adopt a budget long before it knows for sure how much money it will get from the state and all the final numbers on its spending. As a result, the budget always relies heavily on projections of both revenues and expenditures.

A mismatch between those projections and the actual final numbers forced the district to rely on its line of credit to finish out the year, which then required a rise in the property tax rate this year to cover the gap.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien said that even though the board members won’t each get the thick binder of spending reports each month, they can still request copies if they have any concerns.

“Keep in mind, that it remains available to every board member to review,” he said.

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