SSISD board addresses budget issues

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Aug 15, 2007 - Sulphur Springs Independent School District expects to dip into its fund balance in the coming school year to fund a one-time project, which would finish 2007-2008 school years in the red, Director of Finance Miki Eddins said of preliminary budget projects.

Despite that, the district expects to recapture more from the state, and have enough to give teachers on the “step” pay scale an additional $400 above the $800 step raise. Those teachers at the “top” of the step scale, with 20 plus years experience will just get the $400 extra this year. That’s $152,000 additional in this version of the budget compared to the draft presented during the July 30 budget workshop.

One board member also asked whether paraprofessionals were receiving the same raise, or if one had been factored in. Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed noted that the paraprofessionals are on a similar pay scale, with comparable percentage of pay increases as teachers. An increase of about 3 percent for hourly staff was also factored in for hourly employees, as well as about 3 percent for administrators.

The budget also includes $350,000 designated for a 457 or retirement account, which school employees can opt to use with or in place of a 403b plan, provided the board at the Aug. 27 meeting approves the designation.

Superintendent Patsy Bolton said that some teachers, upon learning of the potential opportunity indicated to administrators that in the event of tight finance “if they have a choice between 457 or the $400, they want 457.”

Thanks to the recent House Bill 1 information which affects tax rates, the districtg also expects to receive more state funding. The state will allow a 4 cent increase above the $0.99 rate House Bill 1 mandated districts get down to two years ago. That would put the M&O rate at $1.04 for fiscal year 2007-2008. The I&S or interest and sinking rate will also be going down to about 9 centers for a total tax rate of $1.12.

�While this is a significant decrease, property owners may not feel it when they get their tax statements because property values are up,� according to Eddins.�

Seniors will also, thanks to the amendment passed during the last election, will also be eligible to receive the same tax reduction that other tax payers received last year. 

�They are going to allow us to get more state money, revenue to make up the difference [in revenues due to reduced tax rates.] We get to make it four cents higher. We�re looking at being in good shape,� Eddins said.

The district has slated a public hearing and meeting on Aug. 27 to discuss then adopt the tax rate and budget.

The preliminary budget draft shows the 2006-2007 school year will finish out with $5 million left in the general operating fund. Overall, the main portion of the budget anticipates revenues to be about $27.59 million while expenditures are $28 million, leaving a deficit of about $445,16, and $4.55 million remaining in the overall fund balance. The deficits are expected in the transportation budget, technical center, co-curricular and technology funds. However, the general operating fund from which daily expenses and salaries are paid is expected to be a healthy $1.9 million.

However, “that balance is misleading because it includes food service, worker’s compensation and a capital project for about $600,000. If you took all of those out, it wouldn’t sound like a deficit,” Eddins said. “They tell us we should never use the fund balance for salary increases, but we can use it for a one-time project.”

She said, at the auditor’s recommendation, that there be very little if any extra left in the food service fund. At the end of the 2006-2007 school year, which finishes Aug. 31, the district anticipates having $350,000 left in the fund service fund. They expect to earn $1.8 million, but will be spending $1.9 million, which would leave about $72,000 unaccounted for. Those funds will come from the previous year’s budget surplus for big projects such as replacing equipment. Even doing so would leave more than $278,000 in the food service fund, which falls in the section of the budget designated as “local funds dedicated to special purposes.”

A portion of the $200,000 remaining in the debt service fund balance at the end of FY06-07 has been designated to pay the $154,500 expected to exceed debt service funds.

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