Source: Sherman Publications

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My Way
My Way
Sitting on a pile of cash

by CJ Carnacchio

November 09, 2011

I hate it when any government is proud of the fact that it's sitting on a large pile of our money.

Whatever name you give it, be it fund balance, reserves, fund equity, surplus, etc., government folks never call it what it really is over-taxation.

In the latest issue of the Wildcat Review, Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling glowingly reports that "this past year we have grown our fund balance by another million dollars, the highest ever recorded in the history of our school district, over 16 percent."

According to Assistant Superintendent Tim Loock, the district has a total fund balance of $6.86 million as of June 30, 2011, which equals 16.2 percent of the general fund expenditures.

In other words, the Oxford school district has lots of money saved in the bank and is consistently adding more and more.

Frankly, I don't see this as something to brag about.

For a private business, this would be great news.

But for government, a bloated bank account is an indication that it's receiving more money than it actually needs from the taxpayers.

[I realize the state collects and distributes a majority of the tax money that local school districts receive, however, districts levy local operating taxes (up to 18 mills) on non-homestead properties (i.e. small businesses, industrial properties, second homes, etc.), so they do have some control over how much they choose to collect.]

Don't get me wrong, I believe governments should have some sort of savings to deal with unforeseen expenses, emergency situations, large repairs, cash flow problems and the like. However, to me, a sound and reasonable fund balance is 10 percent. That's a fair cushion.

Anything above 10 percent is rape and pillage I don't care what auditors and government financial experts say.

Now, government folks will argue they've accumulated their fund balances by being conservative, prudent and responsible in their budgeting and spending practices.

As taxpayers, we all want our government officials to be good stewards of our money.

But at what point does fiscal restraint turn into simply hoarding our money? If a fund balance climbs to 20, 25 or even 30 percent, should the taxpayers cheer?

Or should they scratch their heads and wonder why their government needs to sit on all this money?

At what point do government folks think their fund balances are too large? Or does that thought ever even enter their minds? I don't think it does.

Granted, these days, excessive fund balances aren't something most local governments and school districts are experiencing. Some would argue it's a pretty nice situation to have in these tough economic times.

I'm not one of those people. I don't want my governments to operate with deficits, but I also don't want them just sitting on excessive amounts of my hard-earned money, waiting for "what ifs" to come true.

I realize the Oxford school district can't lower the education tax for us beleaguered homeowners because that's controlled by the state, but it could certainly afford to cut the non-homestead tax and give local businesses a break.

Maybe the district could reimburse the Lakeville Elementary PSC the approximately $7,000 it recently spent making long-overdue repairs and improvements to the playground. That type of thing should be the responsibility of the school district, not a parent group.

Or perhaps the district could use some of its mountain of money to pay 100 percent of the cost for a school liaison officer from the Oakland County Sheriff's Dept.

I would prefer that to employing unarmed private security, who have zero authority to make arrests and would be defenseless against armed students or intruders.