Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

School board approves budget

August 31, 2006

This year's budget for the school district is finished, making a very relieved Supt. Paul Dorathy.

After the Baldwin Board of Education approved the 2006-2007 budget Sunday, Dorathy made sure it was distributed properly Monday.

"We hand-delivered it to the county clerk today," Dorathy said. "He accepted that. We also e-mailed it last night to the Kansas State Department of Education and I got verification today that they received it all. We also mailed off a copy to the KSDE as we are supposed to. That budget was certified."

He was also very glad it was finished.

"I am very glad to have that budget done," Dorathy said. "That would be the longest I have ever had to work on a school budget since I have been superintendent. It was nice to have that done."

Board President Alison Bauer was also relieved to have the budget sent, despite being three days late.

"We were a bit late because of all the confusion on the budget," Bauer said. "It was a nice relief to get that sent off and going."

The district's budget for 2006-2007 is set at $8,302,812. Last year's actual budget was $8,215,093.

During the last month, Dorathy has spent hundreds of hours working on the district's budget, whether it be this year's or last year's. There were a few problems that he ran into along the way, making the process much more complex and lengthy.

"There were two challenges," Dorathy said. "One was dealing with the deficit in the budget and trying to make those numbers work correctly. The other was making sure we have correct unencumbered cash balances, because that's part of the budget you have to get correct. The auditor had to get those for us, because the numbers we had were not correct. That's what part of the problem was in the first place.

"The other part of the challenge was that me, being new, did not know history on how the budget was spent, why so much was budgeted in this line item and what that bought," Dorathy said. "That made it difficult. Now next year should be a much easier process, just simply because I have had another year of experience and know exactly where that money is going."

Despite all of the troubles, Dorathy was able to explain the numbers at the budget hearing Sunday afternoon. He went through parts of the budget, while explaining the numbers and answering questions from the school board and district patrons.

Dorathy used his computer and projector to explain the budget. One particular section was Form 150, which is the version that was printed in the Signal on Aug. 17.

Form 150 is used to figure the maximum amount of dollars a district can spend, but it's all guesses until after Sept. 20.

"With Form 150, anytime you set your general fund maximum, it's all estimates," Dorathy said. "You estimate your enrollment of what you think you are going to have Sept. 20. You estimate how many four-year-old at-risk students you think you are going to have, your bi-lingual students, your vocational students and your special education students."

On Sept. 20, every district in the state has its final enrollment numbers for its budget. Then a state auditor will help Baldwin figure how much its published budget will differ from the exact numbers.

Dorathy also explained several differences in this year's budget with the 2005-2006 budget. Some of those were because of new state codes, while the rest was because he moved money around to help solve the $300,000 deficit that was left from last year.

Early in the meeting, Dorathy answered a couple of questions from patrons. Grace Schroer, a regular meeting attendee, wondered about textbooks and how Dorathy changed the budget from last year.

"When we set this year's budget, we looked at these things that are going to be there, like bus fuel," Dorathy said. "If those were over last year, I planned for that this year. We have tried to plan to cut back on some things, like heating and cooling, though."

He also answered questions about textbooks that were sent back recently after they were approved by the board a few months ago.

"Those textbooks that we put off have moved up to the top of the priority list for this year," Dorathy said. "When we order books this year, those will be at the top of the list. We aren't putting those off two or three years."

Those books were for grades first through fifth social studies.

Dorathy also answered a question about the petty cash that was sent out to schools and overspent last year.

"Petty cash by law is supposed to be used for emergencies," Dorathy said. "It is supposed to be approved by the board when needed. A lot of purchases through petty cash were not going through the final say so."

After about 90 minutes of budget talk, Dorathy decided to bring a halt to his explaining.

"We are spending a lot of time on a Sunday afternoon talking about this and I know it's not the most exciting stuff," Dorathy said. "I could go over every line item if you want, but I want to make sure I answer any questions or concerns."

With that, the board approved the budget 4-0. School board members present were Bauer, Ruth Barkley, Blaine Cone and Ande Parks.

After meeting in executive session, the board discussed the School Resource Officer contract.

"We had gone through the contract and our attorney with the Kansas Association of School Boards," Dorathy said. "He gave us a couple changes we should make in there. Most of them were pretty minor. The only larger change was adding board policy 6-20, which has to do with how police officers handle interrogations in the schools."

Barkley asked Dorathy if he is comfortable that the district can pay the SRO on a timely basis.

Dorathy responded by saying it will be difficult, but he is going to ask the city if the district could pay half in January and the rest on time later in the year.

"I am going to approach the city and ask them if that's a possibility, " Dorathy said. "If not, we will have to adjust. The deal is we have a cash shortage, so it's whether or not we can pay for things before we get to the first of the year. It's just another bill. We are going to approach the city and ask. A lot of that depends on their budget."

The board also approved the personnel report. It included the hiring of Alica Thomas as the Vinland Elementary School student leadership sponsor and the resignations of Tony Ikenberry (Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center head custodian), Helen Ballard (Baldwin High School food service) and Debra Simpson (BHS food service).

The next school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the District Office.

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