Moffat County School District ‘optimistic’ about finances | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County School District ‘optimistic’ about finances

— Despite unexpected revenue losses, the school district is on track to end the 2016-17 financial year in good shape and cautiously optimistic that state funding will stay the same or improve.

"We continue to live within our means," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich during the budget update at the special workshop Thursday morning.

There are three aspects of the budget that the Moffat County School Board of Education is considering this spring including: projections for the end of the 2016-17 year, projections for next year (2017-18) and capital funds needed for long-term infrastructure needs.

Here is a brief summary of each consideration based on the financial report provided by the district’s Executive Director of Finance John Wall at Thursday’s work session.

The 2016-17 Budget

The district is projecting to save almost $300,000 in operating costs. They’ve had lower-than-expected utilities costs (about $200,000 saved), lower-than-expected staff benefits (about $52,000 saved) and salaries (about $500,000 saved). These savings were offset by higher than expected spending for purchased services (over budget by about $400,000), supplies (over budget by about $54,000) and leases (over budget by about $2,000).

These savings as well as an offset from the state to help equalize the budget have lessened the blow of an almost $1-million-dollar loss in local revenue.

Recommended Stories For You

The loss of local revenue resulted from a decrease in property values and over $400,000 in tax abatements for the Salt River Project. The board also increased costs by adding health techs and staff raises after the original budget was approved.

The district is now projected to spend about $700,000 above projected revenues, but would end the year with 34.9 percent in reserves, about 5 percent more than the 30 percent minimum allowed by board policy.

The numbers are estimates and may change before the end of the fiscal year — June 30. The school district has implemented strict cost accounting to help insure that expenditures come in as projected.

The 2017-18 budget

The district is waiting for the Colorado General Assembly to pass the state budget to have a clear idea of how much revenue they can expect per student next year from the state.

Using figures from the Joint Budget Committee, the current year and the budget passed by the state senate, the district is considering scenarios for low (roughly $18 million), mid (the same as this year, roughly $19 million) and high (roughly $20.3 million) per-pupil funding.

If funding comes in at the low or mid level per pupil, the district will have to find ways to trim costs from the budget to keep a 30-percent reserve or fund balance.

If the per-pupil figure comes close to the high and no changes were made to expenditures, then they project a surplus of a few thousand dollars.

The legislature is also considering Senate Bill SB17-267, Sustainability Of Rural Colorado. It proposes to make several changes that would support funding of rural hospitals and potentially increase funding for rural schools, and if adopted, could put the district on a much stronger financial footing.

Capital needs

The district needs roughly $17 million to repair aging facilities, replace old buses and other equipment. The capital for infrastructure needs is not generally accounted for in the operations budget.

The district had been considering the adoption of a four-day school week to reduce wear on facilities and other durable goods, to extend their life and delay the need for capital improvements. It would also save about $80,000 in operating costs.

After researching that option, the board elected instead to consider the consolidation and closure of one elementary school.

The initial fact-finding is expected to take about eight months with a decision due by December. It will then take about eight months to implement changes, so if a school closes, it would not be until fall of 2018.

The school budget process will continue during the next regular board work session that will be held at 4 p.m. on April 27 followed by the regular monthly meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. the same day.

For more information about school district finances visit: moffat1.schoolblocks.com/finance-department-86b57286

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.