Licking Heights Board of Education members Sept. 21 discussed with the treasurer and superintendent the difficulties of providing useful budget information to board members and to the public, especially when it comes to deciding which figures are meaningful.

Licking Heights Board of Education members Sept. 21 discussed with the treasurer and superintendent the difficulties of providing useful budget information to board members and to the public, especially when it comes to deciding which figures are meaningful.

Treasurer Jennifer Vanover said much of the budget was restricted funding or pass-through accounts, where money is raised and spent for specific purposes, and the board had little control or influence over the amounts. Examples were student-activity accounts and grants.

"I can discuss grants, but the restrictions are there that limit what we can and cannot do," Vanover said. "If we get a $100,000 grant, we're going to spend $100,000. We're not going to send it back. We can get into a detailed discussion down the road."

Board members said the goal should be to focus on deviations from expectations or past forecasts and the largest budget items.

"I think the major areas would be over-unders and the explanations (for those)," board president Mark Loth said.

Board member Richard Wand said budgets typically are dominated by a few items and that he expects the Licking Heights budget to follow that pattern.

"My expectation is, what we'll find as we dive into it is that 20 percent of the line items will account for 20 percent of the budget, and a little extra detail on those 20 percent (is most useful)," Wand said.

Vanover said the detail is easy, but the summary is more difficult.

"Gathering the information is not difficult," she said. "It's just a matter of getting it into a format and totals that you want. Sometimes it's easier in the forecast to show it by line item; it's easier to say personal services means salaries, and you guys can look at that as a whole versus me getting into, here's instruction, here's administration. I can break it into categories. I can get as detailed or as broad as you like. I just don't want to inundate you."

Vanover also reported that the district's health-insurance contract had been renegotiated at a 2.4-percent increase in cost, well-below expectations.

"In the forecast, I bumped it up to a 15-percent increase because with people I was talking to in the industry, it was not trending our way," Vanover said. "Considering everybody I've talked to, this is unreal. We're quite happy with 2.4 percent.

Wand said his employer faced a 15-percent increase.

"So 2.4 percent is fantastic," he said.

Loth said it was worse at other employers.

"(Even) 15 percent is pretty good," he said.