York County needs to ask for more

My remarks as prepared for the 2016-10-24 School Board Meeting (w/ video):

York County Schools are overcrowded and substandard, and the planning we’ve done since 2009 has produced this situation, so we need to ask for more now and in the future.  I’ve discussed some of this in email with you all, and I want to note a few points on where we are, what the current plan is, and where we are headed.

On May 9th, Dr. James presented the current and planned levels of overcrowding at York Elementary Schools (see this).  Overall  we’re at 97% capacity and projected to go to 101% capacity, without including the new school.  The target crowding level is 85% to 90%.    Dividing the projected enrollment by 85% to reach the required capacity ( 5924/0.85=6970 seats) is a basic 6th grade math problem.  Subtracting from that the projected capacity to get the required additional capacity of 1,093 is a 3rd grade math problem. (6970-5876=1093 additional instructional capacity.)  We should be asking for 1093 seats of additional elementary instructional capacity to accommodate the developments already planned.  A 500 seat school is not enough.

The enrollment at 97% total elementary capacity that we are currently at makes it impossible to do any rezoning to solve overcrowding and and bring all the rezoned schools into the 85-90% range, so the schools like Yorktown Elementary (with a 608 instructional capacity) end up running at 115% (with 699 students. ) At 115% capacity, YES does not have enough resources to manage its own problems internally.

Doing the 6th grade math,  this means YES needed more than the modular building to bring capacity to ideal levels.  169 to 214 additional seats of instructional capacity since last year to bring it into the ideal range. Adding the modular is an improvement, but it isn’t enough.  Right now, YES has substandard parking, substandard hard surface playgrounds (zero), and substandard usable lot size (230 students).  The county calculates YES’s usable lot size at 6.3 acres (see here),  produces a site capacity of only 230 students.  The undersized site makes it so the temporary buildings use up all the state mandated hard surface playgrounds, and also require a permanent zoning variance to push the Head Start trailer over the building lines.  YES can’t manage its own problems internally when saddled with the current 115% capacity. Let alone the projected overcrowding of 137%.  To rezone the projected 834 students (or 137%)  down to the 85-90% level, you’d need to rezone 205-240 students away from YES.

Now 20 schools at about $25M each is about a half billion worth of school infrastructure that YCSD has to maintain. On a 40 year depreciation schedule, that is about half of a school worth of maintenance or 12.5M$ each year just to offset decay. And that’s without attempting to finance a new school out of delayed maintenance.  From what I understand, the county directed YCSD to ask for less by pushing most maintenance off another two years, lowballing delayed maintenance by ignoring inflation and decay,  and shortening the CIP plan to 6 years to push things off the end of the planning window.

In 2009, seven years ago, YCSD started planning the new school to cover the expected  development, and that lead time wasn’t near enough to offset 7 percentage points worth of overcrowding we are experiencing.   In light of past performance, can you honestly say that the 6 year plan the with the 500-700 seat school in middle that you’ve delivered the Board of Supervisors is going to bring the York Elementary School System up to state standards?

The Board of Supervisors has not given you everything you ask for, but you should certainly be asking for enough to cover the planned development on the books with schools at state standards. You should also make it clear how shortchanging your plan will continue to produce substandard schools.

Overall with 5457 K-5 students, we’re at 97% capacity and projected to go to 101% capacity with 5924 students, without including the new school.  The target crowding level is 85% to 90%.    Dividing 5924 by 85% to reach the required capacity of 6970 seats is a basic 6th grade math problem.  Subtracting from that the projected capacity of 5876 to get the required additional capacity of 1093 is a 3rd grade math problem.  We should be asking for 1093 seats of additional elementary instructional capacity to accommodate the developments already planned.  A 500 seat school isn’t enough


York County Elementary Usable Lot Sizes

The York County Elementary School system has inadequate lot sizes compared to the current and planned enrollment and development.   With a current enrollment of 5457 planned to increase to 5924, the combined lot size capacities add up to 3090, projected to go to 3560.  These numbers are based on the State Board of Education guidelines and Mark Carter’s buildable areas at the 11 school sites.

The York County BOS recently approved a new lot for a new elementary school in the Marquis development (See Oct 4 BOS Meeting Minutes.)  Prior to the meeting I noticed that the published 14.74 acre lot size, as compared to the state Board of Education standards appeared to be small for an ultimately 700 student school.  For a 700 student school, the VA DOE standards specify a minimum “usable site size” of 11 acres (4 acres + 1 acre per 100 students — See VA DOE school standards)  The “usable site size” is the buildable area on parcel, not the entire, and can be much smaller than the total acreage.

In looking at Yorktown Elementary School, the 14.09 platted area combined with the 50′ setback lines from the ‘RC’ zoning trims the usable area down to about 10.78 acres, or a site capacity of 678 students, and that is before reserving any land dedicated for parks and recreation fields.  Since the Marquis lots aren’t a simple shape like YES’s  rectangle, the usable land on the Marquis site could be much smaller.

The day of the last BOS meeting, I expressed concern about the planned size of the new school relative to the level of overcrowding.  After the meeting I saw the plat plan and followed up with a question about the “usable site size” within the building lines for the Marquis site.    On the 12th, I got the following information back, and it appears to show York County has very small lots for its elementary schools relative to the state standards:

Elementary School  Total Acreage   Building/Parking Pad   *DOE Site
Sites                              /Playgrounds Acreage   Capacity

Bethel Manor            9           6.7                   270
Tabb                   14.8         8.1                   410
Coventry               15           7.8                   380
Mount Vernon           15.7         6.2                   220
Grafton-Bethel         15.7         8.5                   450
Dare                   17.2         8.5                   450
Seaford                19.8         6                     200
Yorktown               14           6.3                   230
Magruder               14           7.3                   330
Waller Mill            14           5.5                   150

Marquis                14.4         9.7                   570

(Table source Chad Green, personal communication. *DOE Site Capacity calculated by David Forrest, using “Building/… Acreage” as “usable site size”, minus 4 acres times 100 students/acre)

For the Marquis site, the 9.7 acres of “Building/Parking Pad/Playgrounds Acreage” appears to provide only enough “usable site area” for a school of 570 children.  Far short of the ultimate planned school size of 700 students.

Like the problems at Yorktown Elementary, a too-small usable site size at Marquis could cause problems, like insufficient parking, awkward bus loading and dropoff, playground, temporary building variances, and other overcrowding issues.

2016 October BOS and SB

Update 2016-10-07: Today, Chad Green told me that the school division presented the new school plan to add 500 seats of instructional capacity.  Added to the future instructional capacity of 5878 at the existing schools, this makes a total future instructional capacity of 6378.  Compared to the planned enrollment of 5924 this gives a utilization of 5924/6378=92.8% — still larger than the 85-90% ideal range.  Adding 700 would bring it to about 90%, but this assumes York County won’t approve any new developments between now and when the new school comes online.   To reach an 85% level would require 5924/0.85-5878=1091 seats of additional instructional capacity.   Planning to add only 500 seats of new instructional capacity is still inadequate.


I’m concerned about the issue of the apparent mismatch between the size of the new elementary school (500 or 700 building capacity, ~425-595 instructional capacity) and the shortfall between anticipated elementary enrollment  (5924 children) and planned instructional capacity at the existing schools (5878 seats) — a planned shortfall of 46 students.

A shortfall of 46 students might not seem severe, but we need 942 to 1398 seats of new capacity to reduce overcrowding to the 85-90% level.

With the planned new school coming on line, but with the differences between building capacity and instructional capacity (instructional capacity is about 85% of building capacity), the and overcrowding at enrollment levels above 85-90% of instructional capacity,  the required expansion of the elementary system is a building capacity of at least 1866 seats (5924/0.90/0.85 – 6801 = 942).

If you expect any future development in York County in addition to the plans already on the books, one might plan for 85% utilization rate and would therefore need 1398 seats of additional building capacity  (5924/0.85/0.85 – 6801 = 1398)    York County needs  942 to 1398 new seats of building capacity at the elementary school level to solve the current and already foreseen overcrowding problems.   A new school with a building capacity of 500 seats will provide a solution for only  35% to 53% of the overcrowding problem.

If the single new school is supposed to solve the foreseeable and currently foreseen overcrowding problems, the new site should have had a “usable site size” of more than 27  18 acres within the building lines (and an actual site size of significantly more) to accommodate the anticipated shortfall of 1398 seats.  The two parcels in the Marquis South Pod Residential Development Plan (to be presented on October 4th) total 14.43 acres (=9.76+4.67 per the plat plan),  and provide about half of the area required to solve the anticipated elementary school overcrowding problem.

I’ve been writing the School Board and Board of Supervisors (see below) about these issues recently and have received no reassurance that the plans to solve overcrowding will produce better results than the results of the York County planning and management over the last seven years.


To the School Board prior to the 2016 September 26 meeting:

Dear School Board,

I am unable to speak at the meeting tonight due to a conflict with a back-to-school night.

I’m upset that after all the meetings, discussions and rezoning over the last year, we are still overcrowded and substandard at Yorktown Elementary School and the entire elementary system.  Since 2009, when the new school was first proposed in the CIP, delays, deferred maintenance, cuts, and band-aids have resulted in the current situation.  This year, Yorktown Elementary has 707 students on a lot sized for about 676 students, sharing a cafeteria designed for 500 students, and has playgrounds sized for zero students.

I’m concerned that the new school won’t solve the overcrowding problem.  If seven years of planning and managing problems as they came up got us to where we are now, we should look very carefully at our future plans to see what might happen.  Dr. James presented analyses of the last year’s elementary enrollment (5457 students total) and instructional capacity (5651 students) showing a 97% utilization (2016-05-09 presentation, slide 9) .  At 97% of capacity, redistricting couldn’t possibly solve overcrowding at Yorktown Elementary for this year, and that’s why the only redistricting enacted was to move the non-existent students in Yorktown Crescent.

Looking forward, Dr. James’ projections anticipate 5924 students with an expanded instructional capacity of 5876 in existing schools, or 101%.  (2016-05-09 presentation, slide 13) If you build the new school out at an instructional capacity of 500, then the total elementary instructional capacity becomes 6376, which brings the utilization down to 92%.   If you build the new school at 700 students, the system capacity is 6596, and the utilization is just over 90%.

From Dr. James numbers, instructional capacity is about 85% of building capacity, so I’m curious if plans for the new school to be built at 500 or 700 capacity means an instructional capacity of 500 or 700, or more like an instructional capacities of 425 and 595. Dr. James also mentioned that the ideal level of enrollment should be in the 85%-90% range, which anticipating 5924 students, means that the entire elementary system should have an instructional capacity of 6582-6970 students, which is 706-1093 more students than Dr. James projection of future instructional capacity at existing schools of 5876.  With instructional capacity at 85% of building capacity, to serve the anticipated elementary enrollment, the new school (or schools!) should have a building capacity of 942-1398 students.

And that is ignoring any new development projects, the little footnote in the CIPs about the Marine Corps reconsolidation, or any other uncertainties between now and when the new school is open.

I really do not understand how the current plan can deliver adequate school resources to meet the state standards or solve overcrowding.

I do not think the school board has been, nor is, asking for enough, and the BOS is certainly not going to give you more than you ask.

I wrote my Board of Supervisors representative that I was disappointed that, knowing that we’d have these capacity problems since 2009, we have ended up where we are now.  With about 20 schools worth maybe $25 million each, we’ve got about a half billion worth of school infrastructure that needs maintenance and management.  With a 40 year depreciation schedule, that’s about 12M/year in baseline maintenance.  By being cheap, York County is delivering overcrowded and substandard schools.  The published BOS and YCSD plans look like we’re planning for years of overcrowding and sub-standard schools, like we’ve done since 2009.


To the BOS prior to the September 20, 2016 meeting: (BOS video archives)

I cannot attend the BOS meeting tonight, since it conflicts with back-to-school night.  If I were there, I would to say something like this:

After all the meetings, temporary trailers, and rezoning from last year, Yorktown Elementary School remains overcrowded.  Since the new elementary school was first planned, we’ve known we were going to have an overcrowding problem.  Since 2009, we’ve delayed building, added developments, deferred funding, and deferred maintenance. Yorktown elementary has 707 students this year, on a lot sized for 676, in a building sized for 608, a cafeteria sized for 500, and playgrounds sized for zero students. How can YES be a magnet school if it has no excess space?

To reach a 85-90% utilization target at YES, the temporary buildings would have needed to add 224 to 277 new seats over last year.  With overcrowding at YES at 115% last year, using redistricting to get to a 90% target would have required moving 151 students out of YES. But there is no place to move them to.  The entire elementary school system is at 97% capacity, so there isn’t a way to shuffle students around to achieve non-overcrowded schools across the county.  The redistricting that was done last year, moving Yorktown Crescent, moved no actual students.

I think York County is being cheap, and it is affecting the schools.  We’ve known that we could have an overcrowding problem since 2009 when we first put the new elementary school in the plan.  Now, seven years later, we seem to act surprised by overcrowding at YES.  One might say that it is a planning problem, but the reality of the fiscal goal of no new taxes is that something has to lose, and in the county budgets, we chose that the schools would lose. The county has not given the schools the resources to keep up with state standards.  This year, YES has neither of the two hard surface playgrounds required by the state board of education. YES has more students than fit on its lot size, and that is before sharing the fields with Parks and Recreation.  Last year, the county shortened the planning window to six years, and deferred more than 20M$ of school maintenance.  This year, there’ve been cancellations of school orientations due to HVAC malfunctions.  Looking forward, even building the new elementary school at full 700 student capacity size, will not bring the elementary school projections into the ideal 85-90% capacity range.  And that is ignoring the Marine Corps consolidation and any new future development approvals.  We are not planning ahead any better than we had planned to get ourselves into this temporary-building, overcrowded, no-playground mess.  What do supervisors do?

The county can average in historical recession year funding to make school funding look huge, and the county can direct the schools to ignore inflation and depreciation to lowball deferred maintenance in order to meet some vision of financial reality.  But the physical reality of maintaining 20+ schools to state standards costs serious money.  Being cheap means that York County is delivering overcrowded, substandard schools.

School Board Meeting 2016 May 23

The school board meeting of 2016 May 9 showed some recalculations of school capacity, working out “instructional capacity” of the different elementary schools.

The May 9 capacity presentation document shows that rather than number-of-rooms X room-capacity = school capacity, the different instructional programs at an elementary school all require different levels of resources, and produce a different, and smaller measure of capacity.    For Yorktown Elementary, it has a building capacity of 734, an original instructional capacity of 670, and a current instructional capacity of 608.  These capacities, compared to the current enrollment of 699 show that YES exceeds instructional capacity by 91 students.    Several of the other schools are similarly overcapacity (see slide 9).

If you order the schools geographically, as on the YCSD map, rather than alphabetically, as in the YCSD spreadsheet, you can see that the overcrowding is loaded on the north end of York County, and any solution would have to focus on the north end.

I copied the capacity data into a spreadsheet, ordered it geographically, and put the capacity overflows onto the map, and tried to show the ways potential rezoning would have to move the borders in the map below:

YES_EnrollmentsThe +/- numbered on the segments are the overcapacity enrollments(+) and the excess capacity(-).  If you wanted to bring these to capacity with contiguous borders, you’d have to move the Waller Mill border north by 96 students, then the Macgruder border north by 96+75 =171 students, then the Yorktown elementary border up by 171+91=262 students, etc…  These boundary movements are shown on the image by the tags with the less-than signs like “<262” near the boundaries.  To re-zone to fit the elementary students into the 2016 instructional capacities, the school board would have had to move the boundaries significantly, all the way down to the Grafton-Bethel / Mount Vernon boundary.  Note that this is with no allowance for uncertainty or excess capacity. If you wanted to distribute the excess capacity of 194 students or 3% across all the schools, you’d have to move all the borders.

I spoke about this, along with other capacities, and future planning at the School board meeting on May 23.

The main points I wanted to get across were:

  • It is good that YCSD is looking this closely at capacity — the YCBS said they didn’t understand the YCSD capacity issues from previous presentations.
  • That the increases are at the north end of the county
  • Shifting the boundaries to meet the capacities would have a ripple effect down to Mount Vernon
  • Overcapacity at YES in 2016 (enrollment 699-713)  made the school substandard in terms of hard surface playgrounds (1 our of the 2 required in 2016, zero out of the 2 required in 2017) , parking (people park in the ditch and bike lane), and lot size (the 14 acre site as 10.76 acres of usable area for a site capacity of 676 students. (see notes here.)
  • The county’s prioritization of schools on the bottom of the list cuts of 9M to the CIP in 2017 and 26M over the next three years, forcing either substandard schools or significant rezoning.
  • With the limited resources, does the overcrowding at the north end of the county mean the north end of the county is on the bottom of the list?
  • Multiple priorities and limited resources means that something has to give. The tradeoffs and choices that the county and school board made and will make determine whether it is contiguous boundaries, consistent attendance in schools, consistent zoning, or schools meeting the state standards that will slip.
  • I hope that the school board will do a better job recognizing and communicating the deficiencies and tradeoffs inherent in their choices to both their constituents and to the board of supervisors.

I don’t know if I got this all across during my 3 minutes at the May 23 meeting, but I think the last point was the most important– the tradeoffs are happening, and we should be clear about what they are.  For 2015-2016, York County chose overcrowded, substandard schools over rezoning.  When the county chose to defer the new elementary school and put the total elementary instructional capacity for 2015-2016 at 97%, they chose to put the rezoning/overcrowding choice onto the school board.

In terms of rezoning, I really wish they had the May 9th capacity numbers worked out well before the start of the 2015-2016 year (and before the FY2017 budget), and had rezoned to make the enrollments fit the capacities.

For the 2017-2018 year, they should update the capacities to include the effects of the new construction and temporary buildings, add in some fraction of the expected new students from developments, and rezone the county to meet the capacities.  And they could and should do that right now.

Update 2016-06-14: In the video recording of the May 9 meeting, Dr. James says the 85-90% of instructional capacity is a good level (see video at 33:42)  Note that the entire system is currently at 97% and is projected to go to 101%–there is no way to rezone, redistrict, or redistribute 97% total capacity to get to 85-90% capacity at the schools.

2016 March School Board Meeting

My prepared remarks for the March 25 School Board Meeting were these notes, scribbled on a 5×7 notecard:

Basically, Yorktown Elementary School doesn’t meet state standards now in usable lot size, playgrounds, and parking, and it will get worse; The county cut the equivalent of 80% of the new school out of the CIP, and I want to know how it will affect the schools; The new school was already delayed, already cost us in money and resources, will it be ready in FY2020?

YES does not appear to meet the state standards in at least these areas:

  • Usable area — State standards (pp. 5,8.) call for 4 acres + 1 acre per 100 students.  The lot is 14.09 acres, (per http://maps.yorkcounty.gov/York/ parcel P09d-4077-2374, see map) and its sides measure  500, 1274, 491.59, 1241.72′.  Since it has RC zoning, the usable area is the portion within the 50′ building lines, so a generous estimate would be (500-100)*(1274-100)/43560=10.78 acres, or enough for 678 students. That’s 35 less than the October enrollment.  Also, the fields are shared with the county, so even more of the area is unusable for building such things as the two re-purposed hard-surface playgrounds.
  • Hard Surface Playgrounds — Per the state standards, an elementary school should have 120×100′ hard surface play areas.  One area for 400 and less, and two for more than 400.  YES had two, but there are trailers parked on one, and there is a 60×82′ modular building slated for a big part of the other.
  • Parking — There should be 10-20% more than the parking required by the normal operations.  At 106 spaces, YES is lacking, so the no-parking signs seem to have been taken down, and people are parking in the ditch and on the bike lane.

From the budget documents, the only thing that the county cut appears to be the school’s CIP. The county cut the FY2017 CIP from 16M to 9M, and cut the FY2017-FY2022 by 21.3M.  These cuts are about 80% of the 26.5M that the new school is expected to cost.   It is a big cut and it looks like it deferred kitchen equipment upgrades, and fiber optic upgrades. (See crosswalk.)

The planning for the new school has already been delayed, and the delay already cost us $1,350,000 in trailers and a couple playgrounds.  Will the new school be finished on time?  Three years is only FY2020.

I’m looking forward to watching the video (from here?) and seeing what I actually said.

After the county supervisor meeting, the school board meeting, and what I’ve learned in communication with several administrators, I think the YCSD budget and CIP seem like perfectly reasonable tools for communicating priorities of the school district. If not, what alternative would be better?  Organizing 20+ buildings/19 schools worth of maintenance would make a big list–For instance, if you depreciated the 20+ buildings over 40 years, over the long term, you would have to do about 1/2 a building worth of maintenance each year just to keep up with the depreciation.  If you deferred some maintenance during the past recession, you’d have to catch back up in the following years.   The costs of maintaining 19 schools are relatively predictable, and are being predicted in the YCSD CIPs.

The YCSD CIP has been used for years for communicating an ordered list of maintenance projects, and I’m not sure what alternatives could be better.  I do think that the county CIP is a bit more informative, with a half-page or so of text detailing each and every line item, while the YCSD CIP only adds a paragraph of explanatory text on the changes to its line items.  Looking at the YCSD CIP documents, one would need to follow the line items backwards over several CIPS to find where the line item first makes an appearance, and then use its accompanying text.  For example “Kitchen Equipment – 5 schools” from page 5 of the FY2017 proposed CIP, is documented in the FY2012 CIP as “BMES, DES, SES, YES, & WMES  — Kitchen equipment–Movement of kitchen equipment replacement in FY16 forward and spreading it over a period of three years due to equipment deterioration.”  From the outside, this makes it difficult to drill down and see what specific line items mean, but again, this has been the practice for years. The YCSD can explain the line items individually and personally, but it takes some time and effort to work out just what a YCSD CIP line item really is.

I spoke with Dr. James and Mr. Tshirhart after the meeting and they gave me three additional documents, one highlighting the current capacities and grade-by-grade enrollment across the schools, another adding detail about the ages and conditions of the roofs and HVAC systems at the various schools, and one detailing the kitchen equipment upgrades at YES.  I’m confident that YCSD and the county have reasonable plans with reasonable supporting information for all of the items in their CIPS, but from the public information, it is very hard to drill down and understand what the items are, what hard choices are being made, and what these decisions will cost us in the future.  The cuts this year were big and will have real costs.

One clear, sad cost of past decisions is that it appears that for the next three years, temporary modular buildings will be parked on the two YES playgrounds–YES will have no standards-compliant 100×120′ hard surface playgrounds for the next three years.

What to do about it?

Past funding decisions have increased costs and caused increased shortcomings.  Past decisions to delay maintenance and school construction have increased costs and caused increased shortcomings.  At the short-term school-board level, one option for FY2017 appears to be to do significant rezoning, trading off some of the county-level standards about attendance zones for better compliance with the state standards.  Paving some of the shared county field space in “Big Green” would cost some money, but might be necessary to provide sufficient hard-surface playgrounds at YES.  At the current level of support, it does not appear possible to be able to meet both the state and the county standards at YES.

The Board shall operate the number of schools necessary to deliver the approved program of instruction to enrolled students. The requisite number of schools is a function both of total enrollment in the Division and of the geographic distribution of enrolled students. Total enrollment is an independent variable in the planning process. However, attendance patterns shall, to the maximum extent possible,
maintain an identifiable neighborhood in a single elementary school. Also, attendance patterns will, to the maximum extent possible, maintain discreet geographic areas of the County in the same secondary school attendance zone. Alternatively, the Board may direct the Division Superintendent to submit a recommendation regarding changes to the attendance zones, along with a description of feedback received through one or more public forums regarding possible changes to the attendance zones. The Board shall conduct a public hearing on the recommendation before approving any material change to attendance zone boundaries. — YCSD Policy Sec. FB
At the short term county level, it sounds like the budget is a done deal for FY2017.  From my view of the process, the funding based on recession-level spending gives me little confidence that the county is committed to supporting its 19 (or 20) schools.
Longer term, York County should support its schools to comply with state standards, its own policies, and also provide sufficient funding to offset depreciation, maintenance, or decay on its many schools and buildings.
If I’ve made any mistakes in all of this, I’d really appreciate some feedback.

Remarks for YC Budget Hearing, 2016 April 21

For the 2016 April 21 board of supervisor’s meeting, I prepared these remarks:

My kids go to Yorktown Elementary School, and I became interested in this budget while watching what was happening there.   The past planning decisions deferred the new  school from being finished by now, requiring:

  • the extra expense of 1.35M in leased trailers;
  • booting the magnet resource teachers out of their classrooms;
  • causing overcrowding at YES relative to the state standards for “usable area” (pp. 5, 8), parking (p.8), and hard-surface play areas (p.6) …
  • causing a need for current and future rezoning.
  • This planning also eliminated a couple county shared tennis courts and I think it might threaten a shared basketball court that the county proposed CIP plans on resurfacing. (YC CIP, p. 10-11)

I asked my daughter if there was anything she wanted me to say tonight, and she said she didn’t like the overcrowding.  She was also upset that of the two state-required playgrounds, one has trailers parked on it and the other is used for walk-and-talk.

I do not pretend that I understand the budget process, but the result of past level of planning is clear to see at YES– the process has underestimated and underfunded our needs, resulting in increased costs.

The county appears to be happy with the current budget plan with no tax increase, and its level of debt,  debt service, and the level of capital improvements and maintenance.  And the past boards have been happy with their budgets.

By planning the budget to fit a financial model of expected revenues, the numbers balance and adds up to the financial model. There’s almost nothing in the budget for a citizen to advocate for York County at the state or federal level.

However, I found two exceptions: $7.1M/year in “Unmet Challenges” shown on slide 56 of the March 1 Revenue Outlook presentation, and $21.3M in deferred maintenance at the School Division in the County’s published CIP on page 41.

Looking in the YC March 1 Revenue Outlook presentation  the budget balances this year (ROP slide 53)  But long term, the plan:

  • leaves 7.1M/year in “unmet challenges” (ROP slide 56),
  • adds an 8% increase in debt service for FY2017, (ROP slide 52),
  • makes a 4.8M/year increase in debt service by 2022, (ROP slide 52),
  • and reduces the “Unobligated fund balance” by 8M , (YC CIP p. 39)
  • funds only 56% of the FY2017 YCSD CIP, (and defers 21.3M out past 2022) YC CIP p41

Looking at the other shortfall in the County FY2017 CIP, (page 41), the line item for “Adjustment based on County’s fiscally constrained funding plan” cuts 21.33M$ over the next 6 years.   This plan trims the School’s CIP 2017 funds 44% from 16M to 9M, and over the first three years of new elementary school construction it cuts 26M out and then adds back only 7.5M.  This is not a mew re-scheduling of the schedule for the new school.  Future years trim out more, making it appear that the new school is essentially funded 80% (=21.33/26.5M) by deferring maintenance on the other nineteen schools.

This new elementary school is not a surprise–I think Dr. James said it has been in the  plans since 2009, marching forward into the future, along with the rest of the 20-year roofs, HVAC systems and other CIP line items at the other 19 schools.  What is a surprise and a hardship is cutting nearly a schools worth of maintenance out of the CIP to pay for the new school.  The county’s 7M cut to the FY2017 YCSD CIP,  defers the hard decisions onto the School Division. For example $350,000 in updates to obsolescent kitchen equipment at 5 schools.  At 313 meals/day, YES has the most Free or Reduced meals per day of all the 19 schools in the York County School Division.  Deferring maintenance of equipment in that kitchen could risk large number of kids at risk of missing meals.

The past planning process put Yorktown Elementary School in the state it is, and the current planning looks like it more underestimation of future needs and costs, resulting in more debt, more debt service, less unobligated funds, less school maintenance, and more risk.

Why aren’t we planning to do better this time?

I spoke at about 1:00:03 into the video here but it seems the audio for the entire video is nearly  unintelligible.  I didn’t have time to time myself beforehand, and it turned out more than would fit in 3 minutes.

The points that I was unable to make are:

  • The new school funding isn’t just being rescheduled, its budget is being cut by $26M and then restored by only 7.5M.
  • That the current planning looks like the same planning that overcrowded YES–we’re planning for more of the same.

After listening to Thomas Shepperd discuss community values with the other supervisors, I realized that this budget communicates the values of the county, and that the schools are clearly on the bottom of the priorities.

Update 4/23:

At the meeting, Neil Morgan showed exactly where the schools are in the list of the county priorities on slide 4 of his presentation:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 3.47.32 PM

There is an article in the WY Daily on 2016-04-22 about the meeting.

York County Budgeting Resources FY2017

There are two main pieces to the York County budget: The County side and the School Division side, and they are both split into two parts: operations and a Capital Improvements.

Good starting points are:

I looked at these to find out how York County is spending money and making decisions.