District will also begin using zero-based budget in ’09-’10

RANGELY — Not only is the Rangely School District looking for ways to save money, it is re-evaluating how it spends money.
At a budget workshop Jan. 27, Rangely school officials discussed the district’s financial practices and how to move forward.
“We are starting a process of zero-based budgeting,” Super-intendent Dwayne Newman said. “Instead of people getting what they got last year, what we’re doing now is we’re going to be very intentional about where we spend any discretionary funds. We need to ask ourselves if this item is directly tied to maintaining student achievement. We’re looking to be as efficient as we can.”
School officials also received an update from Steve Kraft, chief financial officer, on the district’s financial situation.
“At this point, we’re not in any way in a dire situation,” Newman said. “But we need to prepare for a time when we will have to operate more efficiently.”
Circumstances dictated the district “spend down” its general fund balance by $420,000 in the 2007-2008 school year, with a similar reduction anticipated for the current school year.
“We thought some things would break our way, but they didn’t,” first-year Superinten-dent Newman said. “We had some expenses we hoped we could defer, but we couldn’t. So they spent down the general fund balance for the last couple of years, just to get the instructional program where they wanted it to be. With fuel prices, with utility prices the last couple of years, then some mandatory staffing things that had to happen because of federal law, it necessitated the district using fund balance money for operating capital from year to year.
“At this point, we’re to the place where the general fund ending balance will come out near zero by the end of the school year,” Newman added. “It doesn’t mean we’re out of money, it just means that particular fund will be near zero.”
The district does have a local options fund in reserve, which is “sitting at about $1.3 million,” Newman said.
“The district has some things it needs to look at (financially),” Newman said. “It’s not going to continue to be possible to spend fund balances down. At some point, you have to stop doing that. My recommendation to the board is we really look at things this year and not sit and wait to see what happens with the economy.”