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School budget hearing set for Tuesday, June 15 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Reviewing several scenarios, Holyoke School District Re-1J Board of Education set the direction for the 2010-11 preliminary budget, which will be on the table for approval June 15.

A budget hearing has been set for Tuesday, June 15 at 7:45 p.m., with budget approval on the 8 p.m. board meeting agenda that evening.

Along with the approval of the preliminary budget will be a resolution to use a portion of the ending fund balance.

Discussion of the preliminary budget has been ongoing for several months, with final stages of details discussed at the June 1 school board meeting.

Board members expressed agreement for a preliminary budget that looks to use $144,028 from the ending fund balance or reserves. The projected ending fund balance for June 2011 is 3.5 months of expenses.

Total expenditures for the proposed preliminary budget are $4,891.242, with total revenue projected at $4,747,214.

Supt. Bret Miles noted a key challenge: for the first time ever, per-pupil funding is being reduced for 2010-11 in the School Finance Act. That’s estimated to be about $185,500 for this district.

However, total revenue is down more than that when other revenue reductions, including local property tax and grants, are accounted for.

Revenue reductions and increased costs for PERA, step increase, health insurance and property liability insurance equate to a total budget shortfall of $403,138.

Total spending reductions have been targeted at $299,193, but $40,083 is added back in with the decision to reinstate the elementary art teacher position.

Net reduction in spending for 2010-11 is $259,110 in the proposed budget. Using $144,028 from reserves brings the expenditure cut in balance with the revenue decrease of $403,138.

Included in the close to $300,000 spending reductions are reduced grant spending, two percent reduction to all spending, elimination of one bus route, reduction of mileage reimbursement to 40 cents, no transfer to food service, one teacher on a transitional contract.

Also two teachers changing to half-time contracts, one-time BOCES refund and decision not to replace one elementary special education one-on-one aide, one secondary social studies teacher and one elementary library aide.

Supt. Miles emphasized cuts are being made as necessary to keep the district financially healthy. Cuts have certainly been made that hurt the delivery of a high-quality education that meets the needs of all students.

“We’re going to do less with less,” Miles added.

Highlights of the proposed preliminary budget were outlined by Supt. Miles as follows:

­—steps and lanes in the salary schedule are funded.

—health insurance increase is covered.

—elementary art program is reinstated.

—over $40,000 of new technology is planned.

—teacher supply budgets improve.

—projecting close to level enrollment.

Challenges certainly include the reduction in teaching positions by not filing all open positions and changing some to half-time. There will be larger class sizes and fewer options.

There will be less support for teachers and students, and the same amount of money for capital improvements.

Board members were appreciative of the detailed budget scenario report. Linda Jelden had earlier expressed concern for using $144,000 from reserves. After receiving additional information and detail, she said she feels this is an acceptable amount.

Dan Kafka said this budget is tighter and closer to true projections.

There’s no way to predict what will happen next year, but the proposed budget is one the board is comfortable going ahead with.

At the June 15 meeting, the preliminary budget will be approved, along with a resolution for spending $144,000 into the reserves.

Kafka also asked for discussion at the June 15 meeting on a bond election or mill levy override. He emphasized this is for discussion only.