Did Gilbert Public Schools Just Lose 12 Million Dollars?

Why did 12 Million dollars get scrubbed from the GPS budget? We can’t find any explanation, but we found evidence on the GPS website. Auditors find gross financial mistakes, then $12 Million just vanishes. Poof! This is why taxpayers don’t trust the GPS superintendency with their money.

UPDATE: What we describe below turns out to be exactly what happened. Someone in GPS went back into the slide presentation and changed the budget numbers without notifying the board or the public. Who knows – maybe that person didn’t tell the superintendent, either. Way to squander trust and reputation, unnamed staffer!

Compare the two title slides below, both purporting to be the 2014-2015 Proposed Budget; the slides are the same. We had saved on August 18, 2014 the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the GPS admins’ official presentation of the budget to the Governing Board on June 10, 2014. Those are the images on the left hand side. The title bar clearly shows Adobe Reader in the browser.

The image on the right is currently online at the GPS website. It’s the slide as on the right. There is nothing to indicate the data in the presentation has been changed.

budget comparison titleslide550

On the pdf document on the left below, there is $313,967,843 in various funds for the 2014-2015 school year. The image on the right is currently online at gilbertschools.net, showing a budget of $301,682,909. The percentages in the circle graph have changed, too. Whoever changed the FY 2014-2015 Proposed Budget helpfully noted on the bottom of the graph slide that it was changed on 9/11/14.

budget graphslide compare550

You have to ask, why would anyone in GPS change a presentation from a June public hearing? Is this the GPS response after citizens have been pointing out that GPS had MORE MONEY this year than last year? Just make the money disappear and say nothing about it? Funny thing, we showed the original budget graph slide on a Westie post just a couple of weeks ago.

The official Proposed Budget presentation online is now different, and it’s not easy to find. We know that it has been a tradition in GPS to *create documentation* later to use as evidence they wish they had in real time, but changing a document the GPS superintendency presented to the public and to the Governing Board at a public hearing? What on earth? If changes to the official GPS budget were required for unforeseen circumstances, why not be upfront about it and inform the Governing Board and the public? And explain why it happened? Was someone embarrassed? Were the original figures wrong? This stealth maneuver smells bad, especially since it deals with public money.

On June 10, 2014, the GPS Governing Board convened a Public Hearing pursuant to A.R.S. 15-905. The hearing was required by law. The video of the beginning of the budget presentation is at the bottom of this post. Following GPS tradition, the GPS superintendency (Jim Rice) told the board in essence: “This is the budget. You have to vote on it now. There’s no time for you to ask questions or seek alternatives.”

While we were looking for the $12 Million that vanished, we found how the GPS superintendency derailed the Zero Based Budget process and did what they were going to do anyway. See slide #14, Budget Development Process, Step Three. The Zero Based Budget presentations had not occurred in April and May 2014 as Teddy Dumlao had promised in October 2013, so the board and the public were never informed about what would be funded and what would be cut. It’s pretty obvious that one of the things the GOBs fully intended to do was cut Accelerated Reader out of the GPS budget. That would never have happened if the board and the public knew about the real budget that was being shoved down their throats.

No, the Good Old Boys were miffed that the board made them go through the motions of the ZBB process, so they wasted a lot of time pretending to implement a Zero Based Budget, and just cut the process off when they decided what they were going to do anyway. There were many, many citizens who gave up their time over several months to participate in this ZBB process. They knew that their efforts were totally disrespected and disregarded when the 2014-2015 school year started WITHOUT the recommendations they had so carefully made, WITHOUT the consensus they had so carefully developed.

Did anyone else notice that although Dr. K was asked on August 5, 2014 to make a presentation to the board about who made the decision to cut Accelerated Reader, Dr. K has been silent on that point? When the decision was made, and why only two members of the board (Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys) knew that AR would be cut, are equally important questions that should be answered before the public, which includes the PTSO members who have been scrambling to raise funds to restore AR in elementary schools. It appears that Dr. Christina Kishimoto has embraced the mushroom farm environment for the duration of her superintendency. It appears the new boss is the same as the old boss when it comes to the GPS budget.

Let’s look at the state of your taxes in support of Gilbert Public Schools, where 12 million dollars just evaporated. Homeowners saw their equity in their homes vanish during the Great Recession, but their taxes did not drop correspondingly. Gilbert taxpayers recently received their new tax bills, and they’re not pretty. Property taxes in Maricopa County for 2014 are 5.4 percent higher than last year, according to the County Treasurer:

Schools get the biggest share of Arizona property tax revenue, about 56 percent of the average homeowner’s bill. During the housing crash, property values fell more than 52 percent in Maricopa County, but property taxes dropped an average of only 15 percent between 2008 and 2013 as government entities raised tax rates to make up for other budget shortfalls.

On top of the *taxation vexation,* there are the constant demands from school districts for parents to give more, more and more money to schools. It looks like GPS fell in line with other school districts in their demands for copy paper, glue sticks and hand sanitizer. It also looks like superintendents are taught to use the same playbook all across the nation, making parents pay more, more and more while bemoaning the cuts the superintendents are *forced* to make because their budgets are always inadequate.

The National Retail Federation said that families will spend an average of $101.18 for school supplies alone, a 12 percent increase from last year. When clothes, shoes and electronics are included, the tab runs to $669.28 for an average family with kids in kindergarten through high school, its data showed… Ashley Dammen, an Arizona Department of Education spokeswoman, said the state provides funds to each district for classroom resources but it has “no requirement for schools to provide teachers with supplies.” The state leaves it to the districts to decide “how they spend those funds,” she said.

[Parent] Carly Tatroe said she was not surprised by having to spend $125 on school supplies last year for her then-eighth-grade daughter, Brielle. But she was “shocked” to see the same Higley Unified School District that asked for the supplies turn around and give every student in her Brielle’s class an iPad for classroom use. “I found it ironic that they had iPads, but no copy paper,” said Tatroe, who said last year’s list included a request for 200 staples from every student.

Here’s a worse case: high school teachers are loading homework on Infinite Campus and students have to print it themselves to turn it in for academic credit.  One of our birdies asked a student, “What about kids who don’t have internet or printers?” The response: “They only have to pay a dime a page to print in the library.” If that is not a slap in the face to taxpayers, we don’t know what is.

Oh, gee, lookie here: GPS has been spending a FORTUNE on paper, while the superintendency claimed poverty and stuck parents with demands for copy paper. Now we find GPS posted Vouchers 5031-5039, which include an entry for UNISOURCE WORLDWIDE INC. GPS just bought $51,403.57 worth of paper from that vendor. Don’t you feel stupid for buying copy paper at Staples for your kid’s classroom just before GPS bought all this paper?

The remnants of the Good Old Boys are obviously still entrenched in GPS. It’s going to take some time to get all this out in public, but we’re up to the challenge! There’s a lot more to come. Chirp, chirp!

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