|School budget highlights and challenges are interpreted|
|Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt|
Using updated financial numbers, Holyoke School District Re-1J adopted its final budget for 2010-11 at the Tuesday, Dec. 21 board meeting.
In the final budget, the board authorized the use of $144,028 of the ending fund balance.
Supt. Bret Miles noted the state reduced per pupil funding by $398 per pupil for the first time. As a result, the board realized it is an appropriate time to reach into the reserve and maintain some programming along the way.
While using $144,000, the district could still maintain a strong reserve. It is projected to be over 3.5 months of expenditures or $1.53 million by June 30, 2011.
Changes in the revenue picture included reduction in per pupil revenue, along with a slight decrease of students expected and rising costs of doing business.
Even with the revenue changes, the amount to come from the reserve ($144,000) was not changed from the preliminary budget approved last June.
School budgets in Colorado have a complicated timeline, Supt. Miles pointed out. Preliminary budgets are approved in June, four months before a student count is known in October.
A final budget is approved in December, after half of the budget year has been completed. Even while approving the budget in December, there are still adjustments to funding that can happen in January.
Miles emphasized there is even more uncertainty this year. School districts are unsure of two other items. First, the state appears to need to make another $23 million of adjustments to balance the state budget, which will impact K-12 education.
Secondly, the state hasn’t made a final decision on what appears to be a rescission in this budget year.
Consequently, the final budget that was approved last week is likely to take another drop in funding during the year. The district will depend upon American and Recovery Act dollars and additional revenue from the Education Jobs Act to counter a rescission to minimize the impact, Miles explained.
He said the district will monitor its revenue closely each month, make calculated decisions on all spending and be prepared to adjust when the final rescission is calculated.
Highlights of the 2010-11 budget, which began July 1, 2010, include the following:
—step increases for all employees funded at a total cost of nearly $30,000.
—district’s contribution to individual employee’s health insurance plan was increased from $350 to $418 per month.
—technology plea was heard, with $38,000 in new equipment budgeted. All teachers began 2010-11 with new teacher computers in their classrooms, and the district will have an upgrade to its server.
—elementary school reinstated K-6 art program.
Budget challenges for 2010-11 include:
—fewer staff again this year, with several positions not refilled due to openings.
One elementary class moved from three sections to two, a library aide position wasn’t refilled, one 7-12 social studies position not filled, elementary has one less teacher to work with struggling readers and one bus route was eliminated.
—district’s contribution to each teacher’s PERA account increased again this year.
—class sizes and potential course conflicts increased for junior and senior high students as a result of fewer teachers available.
In November, voters approved a mill levy override election. The district will receive 7.5 mills for five years and four mills for five years beyond that.
The override money will generally address new spending rather than covering a shortfall in state funding, said Miles.
The district told voters the mill levy will be used as follows: 60 percent for capital projects and needed renovations identified in the facility master plan, 15 percent for improved instructional technology and 25 percent for general operations.
In the final budget, interested parties can find the mill levy revenue in four major areas. First, dollars have been added to building budgets to get more money to the classrooms for instructional supplies.
About $300 per teacher was added, which about doubles each teacher’s classroom supply budget. This year, that additional increase can be found in general instructional supply line items in the buildings.
Other mill levy override money can be found in the districtwide section of the budget, said Miles. Within the 600 account codes are the other three new line items: capital projects-mill levy, technology-mill levy and operations-mill levy.
Budget appropriations for 2010-11 were adopted, as follows:
General Fund $5,468,329
Prior to adoption of the 2010-11 budget, the Re-1J board heard the 2009-10 audit report from Scott Szabo of Lauer, Szabo and Associates, PC.
Approved by the board, the audit report showed General Fund expenditures exceeded revenues by $17,516, leaving a fund balance at year-end of $1,670,746.
Based on average monthly expenditures, Szabo said the district has approximately four months’ expenditures in reserves.
JH turnaround plan approved
Details for a turnaround plan for Holyoke Junior High were reviewed as reported at the Dec. 14 meeting and then approved Dec. 21.
The action plan is in progress for the accreditation requirement in Colorado’s Unified Improvement Plan for Schools.
Supt. Miles said this is the first year for the Unified Improvement Plan, so they’re not sure what to expect. The board approved the plan to be submitted to the Colorado Department of Education for their input.