Bennett Admits Mistake. What’s Next?

The House Appropriations Committee had its chance yesterday to question John Bennett, Mark Warner’s Secretary of Finance, about miscalculations that led to a $137.2 million error in school funding formulas. According to Christina Nuckols with the Virginian-Pilot:

Bennett, the top budget adviser to former Gov. Mark R. Warner, said he did not know the full extent of the mistake when he left the administration to take a job at Virginia Commonwealth University in January.

Bennett said he incorrectly assumed that state tax analysts would fix the problem during regular revenue adjustments. …

Bennett said he did not tell Warner about the mistake because it represented a tiny percentage of total state spending on schools and he thought it would be easily fixed. Total state aid to public schools exceeds $6 billion annually.

It sounds like a breakdown in communications. What’s not clear from Nuckols’ story is what can be done to prevent a recurrence of such breakdowns. Was the incident entirely the result of human error? Or were the systems inadequate to handle the transition from one gubernatorial administration to the next?

Will anything change, or will it be budgetary Business As usual?

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One response to “Bennett Admits Mistake. What’s Next?”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    After doing some checking, I’ve learned that Mr. Bennett’s error(s) would have cost Fairfax County schools around $18 M for this year. I understand that this problem will be (or has been) adjusted by the GA for this year only. But going forward, the problem will not be adjusted for any school district.

    I would not argue that FCPS through better management could not find $18 M, but it is not an insignificant number. With a penny on the Fairfax County real estate tax worth in the range of $22M+, we are talking a material sum of money.

    Mr. Bennett’s conduct did create a significant problem and, while it should be blown out of proportion, neither should it be swept under the carpet.

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