Burney: That was one of the numbers that she thought. But there are so many different kinds of questions we have to ask. That's where it is. Now if that money is available...and the reason the board may not know is because a lot of it is will be in the salary and benefits section. The salary and benefits section, that money is allocated based on the number of positions, etc. And the benefit dollars. So if those positions were unfilled, then that may be where that money is and we could simply fill those positions and use that money.
So that is where we are right now. All we're trying to do as a board and especially as chairman, what I'm trying to do is to go through this budget, and make sure that if there is a penny, that we can use, we use that penny to NOT make any drastic cuts.
Channel 4: The question I think a lot of people have is, if you found you were sitting on all this extra money, first off, why didn't you know you had this extra money? And could you have used it instead of making all the drastic cuts we've seen in the last year?
Burney: Okay, now one of the reasons that the board would not know we had the extra money is because we get our board information and when we get our board information, we see the dollars and the amount that we have. The board itself looks at the categories: salaries, benefits, etc. It would take an auditor to go through line by line and that's why we have our auditor who went through line by line to find it. So salaries and benefits, if that was the amount that was budgeted, then that is the amount the board will see. At the end of the year, we will see what was expended. So this time, at the end of the year, we asked her to go in and take a look at what was expended to see where we might have any extra money.
If the district had that amount of money, and did not let the board know it had X-money in reserve, then the board should have been told, 'Yes, we have this reserve amount, and you as the board decide how much you want to keep in reserves and how much you want to use for other things.' That is where we are now, you know, trying to get through that process.
The process that I know will not be finished until March 13th when we have our next budget meeting.
Channel 4: Was the board upset to find out about this? Or is this something, I mean, has it happened before? It seems like such a large amount of money.
Burney: No, we've never, we've never seen it before. The board was concerned. As a board member, it is our judiciary responsibility to handle the public's money in the right manner. So the board has to, the board, us, we wanted to make sure that that money is being used in anyway possible. I was very concerned. That's why I want to make sure our auditor gets everything we need.
Channel 4: I'm certain the two events...did this lead to the board not renewing Mr. Pratt-Dannals?
Burney: No. The board had this done Monday before the article ever came out. Before we even talked to our auditor.
Channel 4: Wow. So these two events just happened in the same time?
Burney: They just happened in the same time.
Channel 4: The relationship between the superintendent and the board: you still have about 10 more months to work together. Can you describe the relationship now?
Burney: Of course it was, we've always had a very amicable relationship between the superintendent and the board, and I know it will remain that way. The board wants Mr. Pratt-Dannals involved in whatever it is we're doing. We want his input with regards to our superintendent search. So we're going to work together going forward because actually, it is not about the board, it's not about the superintendent. It's actually about those 125,000 students we have.
Channel 4: Have you gotten any feedback from any angry people, or any kind of feedback at all about this extra money? Have people been wondering, 'Hey, what's going on here?
Burney: Let me tell you, the two people I've gotten feedback, one saying, 'Thank you board for going in with a laser focus, and taking a look at the budget.' And the other saying, 'If there is any money, please make sure that it is spent on the students,' and that's what we plan to do.
Channel 4: Yeah, I'm surprised because given everything, the cuts and everything, I'm surprised you hadn't gone in with a laser focus, a laser eye, earlier.
Burney: We did. We did.
Channel 4: And is this something that was missed?
Burney: Well, it may be a practice that we can un-practice. It's not something that was missed. Um, some of it is in salaries and benefits. Like I said earlier, we don't know if that is the right amount of money. It may turn out to be $2 million. It may turn out to be none. We just need to know and I'm just kind of hesitant to say that money is there, until (BEEP) I get the report from the auditor. It is something that would take an auditor to find out.