By Angelo Parlove, firstname.lastname@example.org
Janice Warner, assistant superintendent of finance at Saline Area Schools, summed up the big picture for the district’s general fund budget heading into next school year.
“We are definitely in a lot better position than we have been in the past. We’re moving in the right direction,” Warner said. “Our fund balance is still pretty low compared to most of our neighboring districts, so we need to continue to add to that over time.”
For the 2017-18 school year, the district is expecting an increase of $119 per pupil in the state foundation allowance over last year, pushing the total allowance to $7657 per student. In the end, the increase means Saline Area Schools will see an additional $646,000 in their general fund budget in 2017-18.
“The budget has been approved by both the House and the Senate, and it’s waiting for the Governor to sign it, but I don’t believe he has done that yet,” Warner told school board members at their budget hearing in the Heritage School cafeteria June 27.
The district also anticipates other revenue increases next year, including an additional $25 from the state for each high school pupil.
“The Governor had suggested $50 per pupil, and both the House and the Senate took that off their proposal, but they ended up compromising with the Governor and adding back $25,” Warner said. “So that’s good to see that.”
Funding for at-risk students is on the rise, too, about another $114,000 for the district in 2017-18.
“They’ve increased the funding for students that are classified as at-risk based upon free and reduced lunch,” Warner said. “And they’ve expanded the way to qualify as at-risk to include other categories.”
Further, due mainly to the new young fives program for the upcoming school year, Saline Area Schools projects a bump in enrollment of 30 students, meaning an additional $229,000 in funding.
Property tax values in the area are increasing, up 2.88 percent, Warner said, which will net the district another $280,000. With some other adjustments, Saline Area Schools is projecting a total increase in revenue for the general fund of just over $500,000, up from 2016-2017.
With the ebb and flow of the budget, some expenses will rise in the general fund next year, as well.
Following the new staff contracts that were reached last year, the district is expecting a spike of $750,000 – in what Warner called the “big ticket item” – in salary and benefits, including increased staffing for the new young fives program.
“We settled all the contracts last year, and all the contracts include increases for the 2017-18 school year,” Warner said. “That is offset somewhat by the retirements we had at the end of the year, which those of course will be replaced at a lower step.”
“I think they were good contracts for the district and for the staff,” Warner further said.
Other expenditures are dropping, though, including utility costs. By the time school starts in September, all of the elementary buildings will have their LED lighting completed. Harvest, Pleasant Ridge and the high school will also have external LED lighting. Further, the summer bond work will boast improved HVAC control in district buildings.
“I know [Director of Operations] Rex Clary and his team are really going to focus on reducing energy costs during the year,” Warner said.
The district also hopes to see decreases in contracted services.
“We did have a lot of open positions that were filled with long-term subs, at least halfway through the year,” Warner said. “Hopefully that’s not the case this year, but it’s something that I will really have to watch throughout the year.”
Overall, the district anticipates a total increase in expenditures of about $418,000 for the general fund budget in 2017-18, up from the previous year.
Thus, for the 2017-18 original budget, total revenues are expected at $59.1 million, while total expenditures will be $58.9 million, leaving a budget surplus of about $209,000.
The projected ending fund balance at the completion of next year (June 30, 2018) is just over $3.5 million, which is about 5.95 percent of expenditures. If you adjust for the money set aside in the new year for future technology and capital projects, which is $400,000, the fund balance moves up to 6.9 percent of expenditures.
“We’re still building our fund balance slowly but surely, and of course, adding to that capital projects fund,” Warner said. “We need to use all available funds efficiently to provide the best possible education for our students, both now and in the future.”
The board of education approved the original budget for the 2017-2018 general fund during their study session at the Heritage School June 19.