Budgeting Padding for Huntley School District 158

The Huntley School District 158 has a new controller and he is a CPA.

That’s short for Certified Public Accountant.

His name is Mark Altmayer.

It probably didn’t hurt that two members of the current board— Tony Quagliano and Kevin Gentry—are also CPA’s.

It’s my experience that people doing the hiring feel most comfortable with employees with similar educations or job experience.

But, having prepared budgets for the United States Bureau of the Budget under the Lyndon Johnson administration, and served on the Legislative Audit Commission and Illinois House Appropriations Committees, I’ve a little experience in that field myself.

I know padding when I see and it surely looks like Larry Snow has found some that is hard to explain.

In last year’s budget there was $30,000 for consulting services for the Fiscal Office. Last year District 158 seemed to have revolving chief fiscal officers. Money was needed to pay these folks.

It isn’t needed now that Altmayer is on the payroll.

But, it’s still there and Larry Snow, not taking a defeated candidates typical “slacking off while on the way out of office” attitude, found the blatant padding of Altmayer’s budget.

Superintendent John Burkey, who is ultimately responsible for the budget presented, didn’t catch it either.

So, not only was the second version of the budget fatally incomplete because it had no ending balance or deficit, as the case might be, it was padded in places that Snow found.

Burkey characterized the budget as “tight.”

Anyone could have predicted such tightness after the huge salary increases (over 18% over three years) granted teachers. Huge in comparison to the one-tenth of one percent increase in the Cost of Living this past year.

So, with a “tight” budget, wouldn’t you think the budget guy and those reviewing his work would put those green eyes hades and search for unneeded expenditures?

Snow pointed out some interesting discrepancies that needed correcting.

Among the most “flagrant foul” (to borrow a basketball term) items was budgeting (page 21) for $30,000 for consulting services for the Fiscal Office.

Snow had questioned this item among others by email prior to last Thursday’s meeting. Neither Burkey nor Altmayer responded to Snow’s question on this one, so he asked about it at the public meeting.

Snow’s instincts were right.

This was money budgeted in the prior fiscal year to pay for an Interim Chief Financial Officer and the new controller carried it over. Maybe he was trying to pad his own budget. He surely should have known that his payroll check took the place of that.

Burkey admitted at the meeting that’s what the money was for and shouldn’t be in next year’s budget. It will be interesting to see if it is taken out or left in.

This discovery also should lead an oversight group like the school board to look for other padding in the administrative budget.

But, considering their disdain of Snow, I somehow doubt it will.

While he probably should have been campaigning, Snow questioned other items.

Both ahead of time and at the meeting he couldn’t get answers.

Administrators budgeted less money for reading specialists at two schools, but couldn’t tell Snow what their personnel plans were that reflected the reductions.

Snow asked for clarification to an emailed reply he said he didn’t understand. Burkey said he didn’t understand the answer either.

No one had an answer.

Which leads to an obvious question:

Who is inserting the numbers into Huntley’s line item budget?

Snow pointed out how District telephone expense is once again being over-budgeted.

Padding the budget in this account is apparently an annual event for district administrators.

Snow got “carefully review” into board policy concerning the documents submitted to the board. That change was stimulated when former finance guy Stan Hall submitted budgets whose numbers went up and down like a yo-yo.

And, guess what else is missing from the budget.

Salary hikes for administrators.

Maybe that was why the budget padding Snow discovered – and maybe other unnecessary planned expenditures – were included in the budget.

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