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MEEKER I Meeker School District Superintendent Chris Selle says it wasn’t totally unexpected, but the amount of the dollars leftover from the 2015-2016 school year is “significantly more than we thought it would be.”
At an Aug. 2 work session, the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) began discussing what to do with the $875,311.87 left in July from the last school fiscal year.
This total results from $443,300 of higher-than-budgeted school district revenues and $432,012 of lower-than-planned expenditures. The board budget for the last year, adjusted in January, projected total expenditures of just under $6.3 million with a deficit just short of $400,000. This deficit was to have been taken out of district reserves.
According to Selle, the major factors that created the differences from the budget were:
First, assessed property valuations in the school district and across the state, which were higher than estimated. While some of this was countered by reduced state equalization, the net result was a significant increase in revenue.
Second, the district realized a significant portion of additional revenue through county and Meeker Education Foundation grants that had been budgeted at zero because the district could not be have been sure of receiving them.
Third, some of the district expenses had not been adjusted for the four-day school week. For those expenses seriously impacted by the four-day week, actual expenditures were significantly lower than budgeted, Selle said. These reduced expenditures have been accounted for in the 2016-17 budget.
Fourth, some of the district savings were from lower salary expenditures, largely due to using fewer substitutes. This is seen as a benefit of the four-day week, as well, with teachers using Fridays instead of days off to meet personal needs.
The BOE is now in a bit of a dilemma as they agreed months ago to spend down the district’s reserves. The board members feel they were criticized in their last couple attempts to increase school revenues via a mill levy override for having too much money in reserve.
Board member Kevin Amack clarified, with full board approval, at the July 4 meeting that the board would dip into their more-than-$4-million reserve for approximately two years and, if it had to, to use the state’s low-interest loan fund temporarily to pay bills in short months, before going back to the district taxpayers for any mill levy increase.
“By that time,” Amack said, “The board wants to be able to find new funding sources.”
The board’s discussions about how to spend some of the leftover dollars, if at all, included items from the district needs list like a new school bus, cost-of-living increases or bonuses for staff, track and field equipment that will be necessary for hosting track meets on the new track, a lawnmower, personal computer upgrades, student Chrome books and repairs, reducing class sizes (i.e., more teachers), preschool investments, curriculum materials, summer programs for students, a facilities master plan, professional development, bus barn improvements, building upgrades and preventive maintenance.
Selle urged the board to consider the $875,000 as one-time money and not to build in future costs that the district might have difficulty meeting. He reported after the board’s Aug. 2 meeting that he feels the board generally feels the board should spend some portion of the funds.
Likely, he said, “We will use a minimum of half the funds and potentially more.”
Selle committed to the board that he would seek ideas from staff and arrange for public discussion on spending these dollars. The board will continue expenditure considerations at their meeting that was held on Tuesday.
Other items that were on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting included board policies on the annual budget, purchasing authorities, drug and alcohol use by students, including the use of medical marijuana, public conduct on school property and community use of school facilities.
The district’s budget, approved in June, for the school year just starting projects total expenditures of $6.5 million with a deficit of $700,000.