School District anticipates budget deficit

Officials: Reserve fund used to balance finances

By the numbers

Fiscal year 2009: Ends June 30

Total Budget: $19.2 million

Outcome: on track for a slight surplus

Fiscal year 2010: Begins July 1

Total budget: $20.6 million

Deficit: $195,000

The Moffat County School District will vote on the 2010 budget at tonight's school board meeting at the administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.

The budget will run a $195,000 deficit, an amount 1 percent of the total budget, which is $20.6 million, district finance director Mark Rydberg said.

The expenses for fiscal year 2010 have increased 4.3 percent from the previous year, creating the $195,000 deficit. The district's reserve account will cover the deficit. The reserve fund can be used for whatever the School Board deems appropriate, Rydberg said.

Fiscal year 2009 is coming to a close, and Rydberg said the 2009 budget of $19.2 million is on track to finish close to balanced or with a slight surplus.

Deficit costs

Next year's deficit is made up of two one-time costs that the district will not have to pay on the following year's budget.

These costs are for textbooks and other supplies needed for the School District's reconfiguration.

Because fifth-grade classes are being split up among the four elementary schools, students will need more supplies than originally estimated, district officials said.

The other one-time cost will be resources for the new all-day kindergarten program.

"It's a good way to use a savings account," Rydberg said. "If you need a roof on your house, you have to buy it. First of all, you need it, but once you've got it, you won't have to pay for it again."

Salary changes

The rest of the deficit is because of teacher salary raises of 2.5 percent.

This year's salary changes will be different because of state budget restrictions.

The state will withhold 1.9 percent of its Amendment 23 funds until January. The money promised for Colorado school districts in the amendment is not currently available, as the state is looking at a nearly $400 million deficit for fiscal year 2010.

If the state decides to release that money in January, part of it will go to pay for another 1 percent teacher salary increase.

The district ideally would like for salaries to keep up with changing markets.

"We need to try to give raises so that teachers' earning power can keep up with inflation," Rydberg said.

Currently, teachers' salaries in the School District rank in the top 20 percent of the state, Rydberg said.

Administrators' salaries, however, are ranked in the bottom 50 percent in the state, and the School Board already has implemented a program that gives administrators an extra 2.5 percent increase.

"When we see those market deficiencies, we like to try to bring them up to speed," he said.

If the Amendment 23 money is released in January, teachers will receive a total 3.5 percent salary increase, and administrators will receive 5 percent.

New components

The 2010 budget also features federal stimulus dollars totaling $279,000, which will help the district keep up with increasing expenses.

Another unique aspect to the budget is an insurance claim on a fire that damaged the high school auditorium.

Insurance money will pay for repair of the auditorium for as much as $500,000. That expense is included in this year's budget, but the money is completely accounted for by the insurance company.

Without the stimulus money and the fire expenses, the budget for 2010 increased spending by $800,000. Most of that money, Rydberg said, will go to personnel costs.

Rydberg said there has been a steady 10-year decline in enrollment. Upper classes in the high school have about 150 students, while incoming kindergarten classes have more than 180 students.

The district is adding teachers at the elementary level, and the budget reflects the anticipation of 30 more students than last year.

The district will not know for sure whether that estimation is correct, however, until the first day of school.

The shift has resulted in the cutting of three teaching positions at the high school level.

"It was just a matter of function," Rydberg said. "It's not about funding. There was just less enrollment, but we expect this year to be the year that it starts going up."

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