Moffat County School District facing $400K fund deficit

At the Moffat County School Board’s meeting Thursday, finance director Mark Rydberg directed the board’s attention to a budget table that painted a bleak picture during a first quarter report.

“Just a couple of things to point out,” Rydberg said. “You can see in table 3 the difference in revenues and the difference in expenses.”

According to the table’s bottom line, the difference in revenues — from what was established during budget talks in March to first quarter forecasts — results in a $103,450 shortfall. The difference in expenditures over the same period of time results in an increase of $221,927.

Combined with a $75,000 deficit to begin the year, the district is facing a fund deficit of $400,377.

Regarding the district’s revenues, Rydberg said there was good news and bad.

“We’ve received more money in federal mineral money than we budgeted,” Rydberg said.

The district budgeted $100,000 in federal mineral lease revenue, but received $185,000.

However, the pupil count for fiscal year 2011 is substantially lower than what was budgeted, Rydberg said.

“We’d budgeted about 70 less kids and it came in at about 130 less kids,” he said.

“So, we’re going to receive $188,000 less in revenue due to pupil count. That’s not good news for us, financially.”

Regarding the district’s expenditures, Rydberg delivered more bad news.

“This year, we’re about $45,000 more expensive in our staff than what we budgeted,” he said.

Rydberg said the reason for the discrepancy is due to the quality of new hires this year.

“We’ve replaced staff members with more experienced, more educated staff,” he said.

The replacements were due to “natural attrition,” Rydberg said.

Another big expense this year is due to special education.

Rydberg said a special needs student transferred to the Moffat County School District after the budget had been set

The costs associated for that student’s education has added an estimated $70,000 to $75,000 to the district’s expenditures.

Also, Rydberg said the district added two teaching positions this year and planned to fund the positions with money from the federal Education Jobs Bill.

However, the state is rescinding some of its funding. The state’s rescission will be equal to the amount given to the district by the federal government, Rydberg said.

“Our per pupil funding is at basically $6,210 — $700 off of what it was supposed to be,” he said. “It’s a result of the rescission, they’re going to take away from the school.”

However, there may be opportunities to narrow the deficit, Rydberg said.

“We might get a little more on county (mineral) lease money this year,” Rydberg said. “We budgeted $100,000, we might see $150,000.”

Rydberg said the district might also save money on natural gas expenses.

“The energy bill might be lower than I budgeted, with the gas price the way it is now,” he said. “I hope that’s still true.”

If natural gas prices stay the same or go down, Rydberg estimated the district’s energy costs might be $75,000 to $100,000 lower than the budgeted amount.

Superintendent Joe Petrone acknowledged that windfall revenues or reductions in expenditures will only go so far toward narrowing the gap.

“The best-case scenario for those funds still places us in a difficult position,” Petrone said. “But it’s not a position we haven’t been in before.

Petrone said the district could look toward reducing its expenditures, which might include delaying purchases of new equipment that had been included in the fiscal year 2011 budget.

If push comes to shove, Petrone said the district could dip into a reserve fund.

“We certainly could, but we haven’t been known to do that in the recent past, and we try to avoid doing that at all costs,” Petrone said. “However, that’s what reserves are for — to assist in situations like this.”

Petrone said budget meetings next year could be difficult.

“We’re in a tough budget picture in Colorado — we have been and we probably will be for the next couple of years,” Petrone said. “But, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to come roaring back as a state and our economy won’t get better.

“I don’t want the community to believe it’s bleak. It’s like everything else in the economy right now. It’s a dip, and we’re going to weather it and we’ll come out on the other end.”

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