Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2007

School board talks budget

April 12, 2007

Whether the topic was this year or next, budget was the primary item at Monday's Baldwin Board of Education meeting.

Supt. Paul Dorathy and the board members discussed the special education coop budget, capital outlay items, the budget committee and the district's status for the remainder of the year.

"It's time to start making some tough decisions about next year," Dorathy said. "We are looking at some things."

The major topic of the night was the special education coop budget. It was briefly discussed last month, so the board invited several administrators to speak Monday.

Caren Lowe, director of the East Central Kansas Cooperative in Education, attended the meeting and attempted to answer several questions about how the coop's budget is formulated. The coop includes Baldwin, Eudora and Wellsville school districts.

Lowe said the budget formula includes the number of students per school and how much money comes from the state, but the largest portion comes from staff costs.

"Basically, 97.8 percent of our budget is totally tied to salaries," Lowe said. "About the only thing we do have to make decisions about as far as cost would be the staff."

Dorathy was pleased with Lowe's information, because he knows the budget formula is very complex.

"I think Caren did a pretty good job last night of explaining the different pieces of how the coop budget goes together," Dorathy said. "The problem with the coop budget is so many things go into it that are estimated.

"The revenue they have coming in is so estimated it's hard for them to nail that down and say we are definitely going to have this amount of money to work with," Dorathy said. "Sometimes they don't know for sure what they have until June of that year."

Dorathy reported that the district's portion of the coop budget would increase approximately $31,000 next year, from $512,000 to an estimated $542,000

"Any piece that comes out of this will cut into our ability to give raises next year," Dorathy said.

The board made no decision on the coop budget Monday, but will discuss it further at its next meeting April 23.

Budget committee

Another item that was discussed Monday and will need further attention is the budget committee that Dorathy is forming. Dorathy is hoping to create a group that will assist the board in overseeing next year's budget.

Before he forms the committee, Dorathy wanted some insight from the board on what it wants from the group. He received the information he was looking for.

"I am glad the board spelled out some pretty good parameters before we even invite people to be on that, although I think there are some people who have already volunteered," Dorathy said. "They set some pretty tight parameters."

Board Members Lonnie Broers and Scott Lauridsen each served on the previous budget committee a few years ago. They both explained that the committee discussed several things, but their purpose was never explained.

Broers said the patrons on the committee were shocked at how the budget is formed and how it is run.

"People were surprised we had such little control over the budget," Broers said. "Most people think we can use whatever we want whenever we want."

Lauridsen then added that the committee really served as a learning opportunity for him and the patrons.

"For myself, that was a huge learning experience," Lauridsen said. "Talking to the patrons that were on it, they made the exact same comment that they had no idea how school funding works and after they served on the committee, they understood it. It took eight months to get to that point, but the level of understanding was there."

Dorathy then asked the board what it wanted from the group. Several board members explained what information they hoped to receive from the committee.

The information Dorathy received during the meeting about the purpose of the committee included the following: to understand the budget and state formula, make large-scale recommendations and do not give line-by-line recommendations for cutting items.

"I think we've set an appropriate expectation," Lauridsen said. "Last time, there wasn't one set and we tried picking individual things that we wanted to either cut or spend, depending on what the budget did and it just doesn't work. I think what's good about setting the direction here is it's more of what it's not going to be this time. In my mind, the biggest benefit is if we can get understandable budget information out to the community."

Dorathy said he will form the budget committee and its first meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 18 at the District Office.

Financial report

At the beginning of Monday's meeting, Dorathy gave his monthly financial report. He said the gap between last year's budget and this year's is diminishing.

"What I mean by closing the gap is last year the district went over by $300,000," Dorathy said. "What we are doing now is closing the gap down on expenditures so that we are going to try and hit June 30 and be under budget or at budget."

Dorathy also reported that the district will receive its last state aid for the general fund in June instead of July. The reason is the district received additional money at the beginning of the year to make up for the $300,000 shortfall.

"Normally, we would get the last of our general fund money in July," Dorathy said. "But we will get the last of our general fund money around the first of June, because we asked for money upfront. We will get our last LOB money and some other money from the state come July."

Despite the last payment coming in June, Dorathy is hopeful the district will remain positive for the remainder of the school year.

"As we are going along now, it appears we've got enough money to get the job done," Dorathy said. "It will be tight, because of the expenditures we've taken on. The district added a lot of new positions before I ever walked in the door for this school year. With that and some other increases that we've faced, it made the budget pretty tight. I do think we will be able to make it."

Capital Outlay budget

The other piece of budget business Monday was the capital outlay budget. Dorathy updated the list of items that were included in the capital outlay fund.

Some of the changes from the January list included purchasing a minivan instead of a school bus, $11,725 more for the Vinland Elementary School heating and cooling units, $7,000 more for technology, more furniture purchases, property acquisition and facility studies.

"This is the refreshed version," Dorathy said. "Some of these things have been purchased and some will be purchased."

The school board approved the budget with a 7-0 vote.

The board recessed Monday's meeting until 7 p.m. April 23 at the District Office.

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