Leftover money in Kennewick School District budgets raises concerns

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJune 13, 2014 

Kennewick school principals may see reductions or limitations placed on their building budgets by their school board.

The district is carrying over more than $1.7 million into next year's budget in stockpiled building allocations, the board learned recently. That spurred questions about why the schools aren't spending the money and whether policy adjustments are needed.

"I think it's just a simple question of stewardship," said board member Heather Kintzley.

The schools receive money for their building budgets depending on the number of students they serve and whether it is an elementary, middle or high school.

Elementary schools receive about $50,000, middle schools about $100,000 and high schools more than $180,000. The money is used for basic supply and building needs, such as paper and equipment.

Not all schools have large reserves, Superintendent Dave Bond told the board, and it is known that principals will save money for larger purchases down the road, such as a new copy machine. However, the combined building budget carryover is equivalent to about $70,000 per school.

A few board members raised transparency issues, as the stockpiled money doesn't have to be earmarked for a proposed purchase. Shortfalls in other aspects of the district's budget also could be helped if the money isn't needed by the schools, they said.

Board member Ben Messinger suggested possibly requiring principals to explain why they're saving the money, and perhaps limit the ability to do so without something specific in mind.

That could create an opposite effect, Bond said, where principals rush to spend money at the end of each school year.

"We do need to be careful we aren't discouraging sound management," said board member Ron Mabry.

The board asked district administrators to report back on possible policy adjustments.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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