School districts report salaries, expenses, contracts for 2012-13December 30, 2013
As New Year’s Eve approaches, so too does the deadline for B.C. school districts to submit their annual Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), a document that offers some details about their spending in 2012-13.
The SOFI includes salaries and expenses for trustees and employees who earn more than $75,000, plus a list of contracts for goods and services worth more than $25,000.
These documents contribute to spending transparency but they don’t provide a lot of clarity on their own. For example, while SOFIs mention total expenses, they offer no breakdown – not even when an employee’s expenses hit tens of thousands of dollars. Most don’t mention the employee’s title, although in some cases that would help explain the expenses (since the highest bills often come from employees who travel the world recruiting international students).
Spending on contracts is similarly opaque, with districts required to list only the name of the company and the amount paid. Understanding whether money was well spent on all of those contracts would require a lot of research, especially in large districts.
That may explain why SOFIs don’t get a lot of attention. Nevertheless, they can serve as conversation starters and they did generate four newspaper stories this month:
– The Surrey North Delta Leader reported that the seven trustees in that district claimed almost $27,000 in expenses during the 2012-13 school year, an increase of about $3,000 from the previous year. Chairman Shawn Wilson had the highest spending at $6,193 followed by past chair Laurae McNally at $5,838.
– The New Westminster News Leader reported that former secretary-treasurer Brian Sommerfeldt collected more pay in 2012-13 than during the previous year, even though he was on the job for less than eight months. (The increase was due to his severance package.)
– The Tri-City News reported that Coquitlam school district had only partial success with cost-cutting measures intended to control its $10-million deficit. The district’s SOFI reveals a salary hike for trustees and the employees who earn $75,000-plus and notes a trip to China by three trustees with all expenses paid by the Chinese government.
– The Williams Lake Tribune reported on expenses for trustees, which ranged from $285 to $11,515, and employees.
SOFIs are usually posted on school district websites, although locating them might require a search as they’re not generally featured on the main page. The Education Ministry will also provide links on this page in 2014. The data now available is from last year.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and the information presented here does not represent the views of the organization.