State-level data says Boyle Schools have high admin costs

Superintendent says calculation is flawed, includes more than $2M in other expenses

Boyle County has one of the highest rates of administrative costs among Kentucky school districts, according to data from the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents. But Boyle’s superintendent says his district’s alleged spending of almost 15 percent on admin costs is not an accurate representation of what really happens.

The state average for administrative costs, according to an email from Tom Shelton, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, is 4.84 percent. Data distributed by Shelton to superintendents around the state highlight those numbers in each district from the 2015-2016 annual financial report.

According to Shelton’s data, the Boyle County School District has $29.7 million in total expenses and spends $4.45 million on administrative costs, which amounts to about 14.97 percent of the total expenses. That’s the third-highest percentage in the state, behind Barbourville Independent and West Point Independent, according to the data.

Regionally, Burgin Independent has the next highest percentage at 8.37 percent, which puts the district 35th in the state. Casey County School District is 107th (5.08 percent); Garrard County is 117th (4.74 percent); Danville is 126th (4.57 percent); Lincoln County is 134th (4.24 percent); and Mercer County is 160th (3.24 percent).

Boyle County Superintendent Mike LaFavers said the numbers don’t truly reflect the way his district operates — in reality, he said, the district’s administrative salaries and benefits equal 5.6 percent of the district’s total expenditures. That would place the district second in the area behind Burgin.

Based on the calculations of District Finance Coordinator David Morris, LaFavers said the district’s total expenditures in 2016-17 were $29.5 million and the true administrative salaries and benefits were $1.6 million. That figure is about $2.85 million lower than the state’s figure.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, each of Kentucky’s 173 school districts uses the financial software program MUNIS to report district financial information. Within the software are codes to categorize expenses.

LaFavers said the district includes other things under the same financial codes that have been used to determine the administrative costs for each district at the state level. Every district, he said, probably has categorized items within those codes that are not true administrative costs.

For Boyle County, that 14.97-percent figure includes summer renovation or construction projects; LaFavers listed putting turf on the football field; placing away bleachers at the field; and painting the gymnasiums at the high school and Perryville Elementary School as some of the items that are included.

“Because we show up with 14 percent, it doesn’t mean that we have 14 percent of our budget in administrative costs. That’s not true at all,” he said.

LaFavers said using the codes prevents projects from being spread out over several codes, which can get confusing.

“It centralizes where all of those projects are being done out of,” he said. “It simplifies it.”

LaFavers said the district is allowed to include those projects within that code. He said he wasn’t sure if other districts did something like that or not.

“We didn’t have any idea that someone at some point was going to try to say it was indicative of how many administrative staff we had or we wouldn’t have done it that way,” LaFavers said. “We did it for the simplicity of budgeting and the preciseness of budgeting.”

LaFavers said he understands the idea behind all the conversations surrounding administrative salaries.

“You want to make sure more of your dollars reach children. I’m for that — we do that,” he said.

Boyle can move the projects to another area, which would make it look as though the district dropped their administrative costs by a large amount, LaFavers said

“That would not be true either,” he said. “It would just simply be, we’ve moved all of our projects.”

Danville Superintendent Keith Look and Danville Finance Officer Paul Dean said the Danville district’s administrative percentage as calculated by the state was low because the district only put true administrative costs into the categories used to calculate the percentage.

“We don’t have a lot of things in there that are not administrative,” Look said.

Look said the difference in how the districts use the codes likely comes down to the training of the finance officers. Although there are certain legal requirements that must be met, he said there are also “different schools of thought” on how to keep the finances organized.

Dean said, “a lot of this stuff has been done like that over the course of several years.”