School trustees are expected to approve a $1.36048 ad valorem tax rate and $30.9 million expense budget for Sulphur Springs Independent School District for the 2013-14 school year during a special called meeting Monday evening.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 with the requisite public meeting on the proposed tax rate, followed by an executive session to discuss personnel and real property matters, trustees will reconvene to take any action needed on those executive matters. School officials will also be asked to approve any needed amendments for the 2012-13 budget year, which ends Aug. 31, then move on to the 2013-14 budget and tax rate.
According to SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw, the 2013-14 budget will be very similar to the previous year’s budget, with a little bit left over after all expenses and revenues are in for the year.
Following the budget workshop on Aug. 12, McGraw said figures at that time showed the district bringing in roughly $31 million in revenues and spending $30.9 million on district operations and expenses. That’s with a $1.36048 per $100 property cash valuation, $1.04 going to the local maintenance fund which covers salaries and all of the day-to-day operating expenses and $0.32048 to the debt service, bonded indebtedness, interest and sinking fund.
“We’re not in the red,” McGraw said. “The difference should get us to a budget that is balanced, with a little surplus.”
Of course, the big question some community members have voiced is how the district can set a budget when expenses related to damages from and clean up of moisture at Sulphur Springs Middle School haven’t been determined yet.
McGraw explained that those expenses won’t be a part of general fund, debt service and food service budgets the board will consider approving Monday.
“We don’t know what the year holds with things at the middle school. We have a healthy fund balance so we should be fine. We’ll budget that like we have others, as one time projects. That’ll come from the fund balance,” she explained.
The fund balance is the amount left over in the district coffers at the end of each year, which carries over to other years. Because of conservative management of funds in certain areas over the years, the district has a healthy fund balance which will carry forward to the fiscal year starting, Sept. 1.
Districts are recommended by auditors to keep at least three months worth of operating expenses in their fund balance to offset expenses in the event state and federal payments are delayed a few months.
“We definitely will have that. We have a healthy fund balance and will be OK,” McGraw said. “We are very blessed in spite of today’s economic climate. They’ve been conservative.”
A bit of good news going into this year’s budget is that state funding, which was significantly reduced in some areas over the last two years, are expected to be up $1.2 million.
While the state is giving some that was taken in recent years back, the district knew going into the budget planning process that federal funds were expected to be cut 5 percent across the board for FY 2013-14.
“We are still trying to recover from two years ago. Had we not been so conservative before we would be in a big hurt,” McGraw noted.
The largest chunk of the budget, as usual about 85-90 percent — goes to salaries. This proposed budget includes compensation packages and salary increases. The district added eight new teachers, including additional math and English staff for double blocking scheduled to target core curriculum areas, full day pre-kindergarten program and two new positions.
On quick glimpse, the food service and worker’s compensation funds will appear to be negative, with more being spent than coming in. However, because these funds have been so healthy in previous years fewer funds will have to be paid into the accounts to keep them healthy.
The district’s food service program operates in the black, something very few districts achieve. The food service budget factors in not just food and staff costs, but also a few upgrade projects annually. In this budget, the freezers and food lines will be replaced. Funds remaining from previous years will be utilized for those expenses, but because the bills are paid during the 2013-14 school year, that’s where they will be reflected on the budget — which looks like a deficit until the original food service fund balance that carries over is considered, McGraw noted.
“With worker’s compensation fund we’re in basically the same boat [as past years.] We are self-funded so there’s no risk of losing it,” McGraw said. “We will reduce the percent the district pays. So instead of continuing to pay more into the fund, we’ll use more of the funds that we have in it instead. We are blessed. We’ve done a good job as far as teacher safety. This is not a high risk industry. Maintenance, custodial and food service — we’ve been blessed in that area for those too.”
The board will vote on the tax rate and budgets at the end of Monday’s meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the board room of Sulphur Spring Independent School District Administration Building, 631 Connally St.
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