In our little town, few things get politicians more excited than the word “grant.” Even though grants are nothing more than redistributed taxes, they are hailed as free money that will finally solve some dire necessity. You know, like a $1 million fountain/splash pad.
Meanwhile, true needs continue to go unmet. Though I’ve regularly pointed out to the Board of Education that their audits show available money left over each year, I am met with total silence. This is money that they are FREE to spend on just about anything their hearts desire. And I’m not talking about a few measly thousand dollars here or there, I am talking about MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Enough money to solve a number of real problems.
You see, as I’ve detailed here (along with source links), the BOE has been stockpiling money for many years with no specified purpose or reasoning. And yet, every year, they ask the city for more money and make hurtful cuts when they don’t get what they ask for (transportation, math and reading specialists, teacher aides, drivers ed, etc.)
I submitted the following to all five members of the BOE on October 26th. I’ve yet to receive an acknowledgement of any kind from any of them. I’m not surprised, as they’ve pretty much done whatever the hell they’ve wanted to since before I came along. I share this with the public for nothing more than informational purposes.
Members of the Oak Ridge Board of Education:
I understand from news reports that you intend on submitting funding requests to the city via the annual CIP totaling over $2M for FY2018. This is in addition to the $10 million council recently approved for the new preschool and the nearly $6 million already designated through the joint energy savings program.
I remind you that your unrestricted fund balance has steadily (and drastically) risen from $2 million (4% of total budget) in 2009 to $7 million (12% of total budget), according to your most recent audit. See page 9 of the 2016 Audit which states “At year end, the Schools’ governmental funds reported combined ending fund balances of $7.3 million, of which $7.0 million is available for spending at the Schools’ discretion.”
Could you please help me understand why these monies have been held back rather than appropriated for some of the many building and maintenance needs referenced above? Should we assume that none of these items are urgent in nature? Are our school buildings in such good shape that you feel justified stockpiling our tax monies while continuing to request more of council year after year?