School district budgets for $200K in deficit spending for FY 2013

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At a glance ...

• The Moffat County School District budgeted $200,000 in deficit spending in fiscal year 2013.

• The projected shortfall is largely a result of expected enrollment declines and lagging state funding.

• The Moffat County School Board is scheduled to adopt the budget June 28.

• The budget can be amended later in the fiscal year as financial factors like enrollment become clearer.

Quotable

“Money’s tight everywhere. But, that is the way it is.”

— Mark Rydberg, Moffat County School District finance director, about the proposed 2013 budget, which calls for $200,000 in deficit spending

With enrollment expected to inch downward and state funding still bleak, the Moffat County School District is budgeting to be $200,000 in the red for fiscal year 2013.

The school district slashed spending by more than $2.5 million since fiscal year 2011 and hasn’t purchased textbooks or curriculum supplies in two years, Finance Director Mark Rydberg told Moffat County School Board members during a special meeting Thursday.

A possible increase in specific ownership tax revenue and future mineral lease royalties could add to school district coffers.

But Rydberg didn’t encourage being overly optimistic Thursday as board members conducted a public hearing on the proposed budget.

“We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

A dwindling student count, coupled with reduced state funding, were the major players in the budgeted $200,000 deficit.

Districts receive state money based on a formula that multiples student enrollment by the amount the state pays per pupil.

Moffat County’s enrollment continues to decline, and it’s expected to drop by 3 percent in the 2013 fiscal year alone, according to school district budget documents.

The negative factor — or the difference between what the state should be paying districts per school finance laws and what it can afford to pay them — also continues to pummel the district’s bottom line.

Colorado legislators passed an amendment in 2011 allowing for the negative factor when the state can’t afford to pay its mandated share for K-12 education.

The school board will appropriate the school district’s reserves when it adopts the budget June 28, so it won’t be required to pass a budget amendment if it dips into rainy-day funds.

Budgeting a deficit was a choice to “support our teachers” and other staff members, Superintendent Joe Petrone said.

“And it was the right choice,” Board President Sandie Johns said. The budget isn’t set in stone.

Factors like student enrollment, insurance claims, and the experience and education of new hires — which determines starting pay — could change, Rydberg said.

If they do, the budget can be revised later in the fiscal year.

Until then, the school board will have to watch its pennies to remain on budget.

“Money’s tight everywhere,” Rydberg said. “But, that is the way it is.”

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