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DISTRICTS VARY IN TRACKING OF LOTTERY INCOME; SEPARATE ACCOUNT REQUIRED.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

Two of Antelope Valley's largest school districts fail to keep a separate account for millions of dollars in lottery revenue, as state law requires, district officials say.

But state education officials say they do not police how individual districts spend the money, leaving that up to each district's officials.

``They are supposed to monitor expenditures,'' said Kathy Mathews, an associate analyst with the state Department of Education.

State law regulating the use of revenue from the state lottery created by California voters 14 years ago forbids schools from spending lottery revenue on buying real estate, building facilities, financing research, or to pay for any other noninstructional purpose.

The law also requires that each school district establish a separate account for the receipt and expenditure of lottery money, which should be identified as a lottery education account, records show.

While the state does not police districts' use of lottery funds, it conducts an annual survey of 100 school districts and a report on the ``patterns of the use of money,'' Mathews said. The list of schools must include the Los Angeles Unified School District, with the 99 other schools chosen at random, she said.

Palmdale School District, Antelope Valley Union High School District and Lancaster School District, the three largest local school districts, varied in their practices of what they did with their lottery money.

The Antelope Valley Union High School District receives $1.8 million to $2 million in lottery revenue annually. The Lancaster School District is projected to receive $1.5 million this school year, and Palmdale School District is estimating it will get $2.1 million.

Palmdale School District Superintendent Nancy Smith said the district's lottery money is placed in a separate account to keep track of expenditures.

Kenneth Scott, chief financial officer of the high school district, said the district does not put lottery money into a special account.

Ned McNabb, assistant superintendent for business services, said he did not know about the requirement for a separate account.

``That's news to me. We will have to look at the law and ask our auditor what the expectation is,'' he said.

The Palmdale district spends lottery money on the district's computer lab at each school.

``We spend it on the computer labs we have in each school, and we have a full-time computer aide in each lab. We also have a replacement schedule to keep computer labs updated,'' Smith said.

Smith said lottery money can pay for staff salaries but the district tends not to do that because it's not a guaranteed income.

The high school district spends its lottery money on one-time expenditures, such as books, supplies, computers and office equipment, Scott said.

Lancaster district's lottery funds are deposited as revenue in the general fund and go toward the overall operation of the school district, McNabb said.

By law, at least 34 percent of lottery ticket sales must be disbursed to schools, 50 percent to the public in the form of prize money, with the remaining 16 percent going to the Lottery Commission to cover administrative expenses.

``That changes every year. If the lottery is having a really good year, the amount that goes to schools will be more,'' said Mathews, the Department of Education analyst.

``It's had pretty extreme fluctuations. For the most part, for the last several years, it has stayed in a pretty close range.''

The amount of lottery money set aside for schools is determined by the prior year's annual average daily attendance, so this year's allotment is about $120 per student, Smith said.

In 1998-99, the allotment was $122 per student, the year before, $115, lottery officials said.

``One of the misconceptions is, people ask `What do you do with all that lottery money?' '' said McNabb, the Lancaster assistant superintendent. ``Our operating budget, total expenditures for 1999-00, is $82 million. Then you've got the lottery amount. That is 1.87 percent of our operating budget - less than 2 cents on the dollar of what it takes to operate the school district.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 26, 1999
Words:674
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