School Board tells leaders to hold spending
Educational programs won’t suffer, but neither will they see the big changes only money can buy.
The Moffat County School District Board of Education told administrators Thursday night to hold the line on spending when preparing the 2005-06 budget.
Sound financial planning in the past has put the district in a cash-happy position that will allow it to weather the state’s financial storm, but not for long.
Too many years of increased spending will put the school district at a $3 million fund balance — past the point where it has to borrow money to maintain its cash flow. Too many years of a flat budget, though, means cutting programs and student services.
Given both scenarios, board mem-bers recommended taking the middle road — attempting a flat budget in 2005-06 and then allowing 1 percent spending increases in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
“It’s not possible to sustain,” Superintendent Pete Bergmann said. “Zero percent is possible to shoot for next year, but it’s not possible to sustain.”
Even the projected 1.1 percent increase in state per-pupil funding won’t make up for a drop in student enrollment that is expected to lose the school district $132,000 this year.
In fact, according to Bergmann the only way the district can hold the line on spending is because so many long-term teachers are retiring and the cost for the district’s medical insurance went down.
“I think we can sustain the quality of education we have currently and take care of teachers — probably not as well as they’d like — but at least be competitive,” Bergmann said.
There is hope that salvation will come on the state level in the form of TABOR reform or that lawsuits requiring the state to fully fund education are successful.
“I really believe something’s going to give, because something’s got to give,” Bergmann said.
Given current scenarios of decl-ining enrollment and small state funding increases, the district eventually will have to increase revenue in other ways — a mill levy override or a mill levy increase, Bergmann said.
“But, we haven’t even seriously and aren’t now seriously considering that,” he said.
Current estimates set 2005-06 revenues at $16,513,950 — down $219,650 from this year — with expenditures at $17,303,000 — equal to last year.
“We can’t keep spending our fund balance down,” school district Finance Director Mike Brinks said.
An ideal fund balance is at least $5.5 million.
Three months’ operating revenue is $4.5 million.
Eight veteran teachers are expected to retire before next year and only four will be hired in their place.
“We’re hoping to address decl-ining enrollment through attrition rather than mandatory cuts,” Bergmann said.
Maintaining a flat budget means what parents, teachers and administrators ranked as spending priorities next year likely will have to wait.
Topping the list was increased services for gifted and talented students as well as prevention and intervention resources for reading, writing and math.
Retaining and attracting highly qualified staff and building and facility maintenance also ranked high.
Steve Hafey was the only board member to recommend a 1 percent spending increase.
“If we go 1 percent, that would be rolling the dice, but we’re in the position to have the bucks to roll the dice,” he said.
Board President John Wellman voted to stay conservative, saying the numbers could be changed to reflect better revenues than expected if such a situation occurs.
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