School board passes 2012-13 budget calling for $200K in deficit spending

Quotable

“It’s never comfortable when you’re having to dip into the savings, so to speak.”

— J.B. Chapman, Moffat County School Board member, about the school district’s 2012-13 budget that calls for a $200,000 deficit

In other action ...

At its regular meeting Thursday, the Moffat County School Board:

• Adopted, 5-0, a policy regarding a professional growth incentive plan.

• Adopted, 5-0, a policy regarding employment of the superintendent. The policy establishes a timeline for superintendent evaluations and other related items.

• Approved, 5-0, representatives for elementary and secondary education, education program strategies and gifted and talented programs, and other federal grant programs.

• Approved, 5-0, a first reading on policies regarding student absences, excuses and truancy. The revised policies have “very little changes as far as content,” Student Services Director Renae Dove said. The policies were changed to represented recommendations made by the Colorado Association of School Boards, and they replace a former policy on student attendance, which the board voted, 5-0, to rescind.

• Approved, 5-0, a reading on a policy regarding the classified salary schedule.

• Approved, 6-0, to appoint Tinneal Gerber as board treasurer, effective July 1. Gerber replaces Finance Director Mark Rydberg, whose last day with the district is today.

— Note: Board member Tony St. John arrived in the latter half of the meeting, and Sherry St. Louis was absent.

The budget the Moffat County School Board passed Thursday didn’t change much from the proposed document the board reviewed earlier this month.

The sinking student enrollment numbers were still there, as were dwindling state funding and “the negative factor” — the gap between what the state was initially required to pay school districts and what it can afford to pay them in a still-sluggish economy.

Faced with the prospect of another year in lean times, the board gave its approval to a 2012-13 budget that calls for about $200,000 in deficit spending.

“You know I think it’s a little bit of a risk,” Finance Director Mark Rydberg told the board before the vote.

However the fiscal climate left administrators and board members with few options.

“We have some factors that are strong against us,” he said.

Enrollment and per-pupil funding, which make up the lion’s share of the school district’s revenues, are on a downward trend, he said.

School districts across Colorado also have to contend with the negative factor, which legislators authorized in 2011 to allow the state to pay less than its required share to K-12 education if it doesn’t have the funds.

Deficit spending isn’t ideal, but “once in a while, it’s necessary,” providing that the district builds its funds back up and the board is aware it’s spending in deficit, “which we are,” Board President Sandie Johns said after the meeting.

Because board members appropriated all school district reserves, they won’t have to make a budget amendment to draw from the district’s rainy day funds.

Board member J.B. Chapman believes taking that step won’t be easy.

“It’s never comfortable when you’re having to dip into the savings, so to speak,” he said before Thursday’s meeting. “There were as many cuts as could be made without removing services to the kids.”

Staffing cuts — made by consolidating positions or not refilling them when they came open through attrition — wasn’t easy either, especially in the younger grades that emphasize basic skills.

“When you have to take any type of assistance away from that process, it’s tough,” Chapman said. “It’s a tough decision to make.”

For the next school year, administrators and board members will have to keep a close eye on the bottom line.

“Absolutely,” Johns said. “So we have to really prioritize going down the road, as we’ve had to do the last two years,” she said.

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