As expected, Sulphur Springs Independent School District trustees gave unanimous approval to the school district's budget for the school year Monday evening.
In the same special meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the school district tax rate of $1.36048 per $100 property valuation, $1.04 going to the local maintenance fund, which covers salaries and all of the day-to-day operating expenses, and 32.048 cents to the debt service, bonded indebtedness, interest and sinking fund.
SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw said the $30.9 million budget contains a conservative estimate of a $60,000 surplus in the general fund.
Along with the general fund budget, trustees approved the budget for food service and for debt service.
“Our food service budget is $2.3 million,” McGraw said. “Our debt service, where we make our bond payment, is $4.2 million.”
While trustees expect a small surplus in the debt service budget, the cost for food service will exceed budgeted revenue.
“We really need to do that because our fund balance in our food service has grown and we do have some projects we need to do this year,” McGraw said. “We are going to use our fund balance to do that.”
The school district, in following state recommendations, tries to keep at least three months worth of operating expenses in its 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 money back that was taken in recent years, 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 block scheduling to target core curriculum areas, a 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.”
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