Moffat County School District finds $800k surplus in budget
First raise in 3 years for Moffat County teachers, staff and administrators
Craig — Moffat County School District revealed Thursday that there’s an $800,000 surplus in the district’s budget.
The news prompted the school board to approve raises for teachers, staff and administrators for the first time in three years.
Prior to the knowledge of the $800,000 excess in funds, the school board cut six positions in June — four of which were health technicians.
Now, the district will add back two of the four health tech positions that were eliminated earlier in the summer.
Questions surrounding how the district miss calculated its budget by such a large amount swirled at Thursday night’s board work session that took place prior to the board meeting.
Excess funds roll into the 2016-17 budget leaving the district in a better financial state than anticipated. That means the district is in the black.
“I feel like we are finally headed in the right direction,” said School Board President Darrell Camilletti. “I was frustrated with the lack of transparency of the former administration. How did we miss the target on the budget as far as we did and that it was so late in the game before we became aware of it?”
Two months ago the district’s board of education unanimously approved a general fund budget of $19.8 million for the coming school year, with deficit spending of $212,000 after agreeing to cut the six full-time positions.
During the special work session on Thursday the board learned of the $800,000 surplus and then during their monthly board meeting they unanimously approved:
• A step increase for all existing staff, the first raise in three years. The raise will not apply to new hires or the superintendent.
• Hiring two health techs to replace four positions originally eliminated in the budget with a commitment to re-access health services needs in the coming months and to add back more techs if the surplus remains and student health or safety is compromised.
• Holding 30 percent in reserve and if the reserve grow higher than 30 percent, a commitment to consider a plan to increase the facilities maintenance budget with the overage.
The board, under the advice of former Superintendent Brent Curtice, also considered asking the community for a Mill Levy override in 2017. That is now off the table, Camilletti said.
“We are going to go through a strategic planning process and through that we will determine what the needs are long term,” Camilletti said. “I have always maintained that if we ask the taxpayers for more money, we need good numbers and that we are spending responsibly.”
The difference in the financial state of the school district from June to August has been attributed to the difference between forecasted figures and actual expenditures and savings.
“Quarterly reports are actuals compared to the budget, not compared to updated estimates,” said Executive Director of Finance and Operations Tinneal Gerber. “As we move forward what we will look at is updating the budget, by doing that the quarterly reports will be compared against the updated budget and therefore will be more accurate.”
The district saved a significant amount on classified staff salaries. Such savings were attributed to the change from paper to computerized time clocks. Another change that resulted in significant savings was the removal of a line item for the superintendent’s retirement.
“Early retirement of the superintendent was in reserve and has now been removed,” said Board Member JoAnn Baxter. “We need to remember the turmoil we were in at the time we were making budget decisions.”
Budgeting for the 2016-17 school year was complicated due to the resignation and early release of Curtis, the medical leave of Gerber and advice provided by independent contract consultant Morris Ververs. Board members expressed frustration having made those difficult choices in June.
“I made decisions based on spending and the budget. If I had known we had not spent as much, I would have made different decisions,” said Board Member Charity Neal. “I’m not usually the budget hound so this speaks to my frustration at the decisions that we had to make.”
New Superintendent David Ulrich, while noting his “biggest learning curve is on the financial side,” reassured the board that changes to the reporting system would “tighten the budgeting process” to reduce such large discrepancies in the future.
It is important to the board not to have a repeat in the future, he said.
“You’re asking all of the questions that I asked of Tinneal Gerber. What I will ask of her will be tighter,” Ulrich said. “I can only bring the best practices that I know through training and mentorship.”
Gerber outlined a number of changes that will help including:
• Provide more accurate updates on salary expenditures
• Freeze spending right before spring break
• Cut down on purchase orders to reduce spending
• Allow limited year-end spending
“We need to get the budget tighter. We make decisions on cutting back, adding step increases and going to the public for more funding,” said Camilletti. “It’s great when people are coming in under, but the numbers need to be as accurate as possible.”
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