- Written by Mike Martin
"No money"? How can that be?
COLUMBIA, Mo 03/11/15 (Analysis) -- "There is NO MONEY in the Budget for a 5% Columbia Public School (CPS) teacher salary increase."
So said CPS CFO Linda Quinley, to Columbia's National Education Association representatives.
But as City Hall has taught, whenever administrators say "no money in the Budget" it's time to look at that other, more important document, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
A Budget is a statement of OPINION, written by in-house administrators. A CAFR is a statement of FACT, compiled and audited by third party accountants.
Class, let's try that again: Budget = Opinion. CAFR = Fact.
The CAFR praises CPS' finances. "The District continues to remain financially sound," the auditors write. "The District has the ability to meet immediate financial needs. The District continues to be able to meet its obligations."
In the CAFR, we learn CPS has a "net position" (net worth) of $163.2 million (assets minus liabilities), up about $10 million (over 6%) from the previous period (2012-13).
"Net position is a useful indicator of the District’s financial position," the CAFR explains. "Changes in net position indicate that the District’s financial situation is improving or deteriorating."
Question 1: Given this information, how is CPS is hurting financially? (Has your net worth gone up 6% in a year?)
Next we learn (p. 13) that the 2013-14 "governmental fund balance of $101 million increased $20.6 million from the prior year."
The CAFR says the governmental fund balance "helps determine whether there are more or fewer financial resources that can be spent to finance the District’s programs."
Question 2: If CPS has "no money," why is the "governmental fund balance" up 20% in one year?
Of that $101 million, "$37.8 million is an 'unassigned fund balance,' available for spending at the District’s discretion." (CAFR, p. 13)
Question 3: If the District is too poor to give teachers a 5% raise, how can it have $37.8 million available for use at the "District's discretion?"
Question 4: Why not use that discretion to give teachers a pay increase -- or taxpayers a break?
Finally, CPS has $125.2 million in "cash, cash equivalents, and investments" the CAFR (p. 52) shows.
It has another $130 million in "receivables," i.e. cash coming in from property taxes, a statewide education sales tax, and other sources. (CAFR pg 27, click pic for larger).
That's over $250 million in cash, investments, and incoming tax money. A quarter billion dollars. But as the Trib story says, "CPS administrators tell teachers there is no money for increased salaries."
Question Five: "No money"? With a quarter BILLION dollars? How can that be?