Sulphur Springs Independent School District administrators and business officers are in the home stretch of budget preparation, earnestly working over the next month to formulate a final budget plan for trustees to approve at a special Aug. 25 meeting.
Tax appraisals released late this month, projected collection rates and special summer projects funded with money leftover from the 2013-14 budget are among the issues discussed during the July school board meeting.
SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw noted SSISD is expected to finish out the 2013-14 financial year a little better than budgeted, with some departments ending the year with more left over than expected. Some of the funds left over went into the fund balance and were then designated to help fund repairs and upgrades that otherwise would have had to come out of the 2014-15 budget or would not be possible. HVAC repairs and replacements are among those projects.
McGraw noted that budget figures presented at the July 21 meeting were tentative, as the appraisal district had not yet released this year’s appraisal figures, but did include the anticipated 25-cent increase in lunch prices. The budget the board will be asked to consider approving Aug. 25, she said, will reflect the new tax appraisals.
The majority of SSISD revenues are from state and local funds. SSISD typically bases its local revenue projections on a 97 percent tax collection rate, a conservative rate for the district. The 2013-14 budget used a 98 percent tax collection rate. When revenues and expenses were initially compared on a 97 percent collection rate, the end fund balance was lower than hoped for. So, officials raised the collection basis, optimistic for a good year.
As of the July board budget workshop, SSISD’s tax collection was 99.45 percent, and all penalties and fees from delinquent collections pushed to 101.3 percent. The district brings in more than the 97 percent rate, but that’s the figure typically used in case collections don’t come in as good this year as in past decades.
The general operating fund covers all of the day-to-day expenses for the district, often called maintenance and operating funds. The July 21 projections showed an estimated $19 million left in the the 2013-14 maintenance and operating budget. This portion of the overall district budget helps offset other funds which don’t fully fund themselves — specifically the transportation, technical center and co-curricular activities funds. Another $1.8 million is expected to remain in the “local funds dedicated to special purposes” portion of the budget, which includes food service, debt service, capital projects, worker’s compensation and scholarship funds.
As of the July figures, the district was projected to receive $31.7 million in revenues and spend $31.6, leaving about $39,000 not budgeted in the overall operational budget. The special purposes budget is expected generate another $8.3 million and cost about $8.55 million.
Some funds, such as food service and worker’s compensation funds, can be a bit misleading. For instance, SSISD as of the workshop was projected to have $860,000 remaining in the food service fund at the end of the year; the district anticipates taking in $2.28 million in 2014-15 fiscal year and spending $2.4 million for what appears to be a deficit of $156,230. Because the district receives federal monies which go to this fund, auditors don’t recommend having quite so much left over in the overall food service fund; they are advised to spend more to get those numbers down. Each year, the district plans major appliance and kitchen repairs or upgrades throughout the district to properly use some of that money.
When setting an annual budget, the district also tracks special revenue funds, usually federal funds. The amount the district receives is the amount budgeted; the “payroll expenditure never exceeds what they get” in these federal funds. The payroll is figured first, then what’s left is used for the designated purpose. As of July 21, SSISD’s special revenue funds were expected to be $3.05 million; they include Head Start Title I, vocational, Title III for students with limited English proficiency and visually impaired programs.
McGraw said final tallies for budgeted expenses from across the district will be calculated, including projected tax revenues based on 2014-15 appraisal rates, then presented to trustees in August for approval.
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