SSISD tax rate falling almost 20 percent; budget projects a healthy fund balance for district

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Sept. 2, 2007 - Sulphur Springs residents can expect their school tax rate to drop 19.8 percent this year, but may not feel that big a cut in their final bill due to the increase in appraised property values throughout the county.

Sulphur Springs Independent School District trustees this week approved the overall tax rate of $1.41196 per $100 of property value, a decrease of 28.7408 cents over the 2006-2007 rate.

The maintenance and operations tax will decrease from $1.30403 to $1.04005 during the 2007-2008 year. Similarly, the interest and sinking, or debt service, tax will drop from 10.793 cents to 9.2142 cents.

At the end of the school year, the district anticipates having $5 million left in the M&O fund an an I&S fund balance of $195,000.

The 2007-2008budget was also approved Monday night. In FY 2008, the district expects to bring in $30,971,075 in revenue while spending $31,679,378, leaving a deficit of $708,303. That's misleading, however. That number includes funds for items budgeted in fiscal year 2006-2007, which ended Friday, but will be spent in fiscal year 2008.

In a nutshell, the district expects to finish the current year with an overall $6.4 million fund balance. That includes $5 million left in the general operating fund, $350,000 in food service, $200,000 in debt service and $850,000 in the worker’s compensation fund.

Part of those reserves will be used for the $708,300 "shortfall," so at the end of the next year the district spending plan projects a healthy $5,691,697 fund balance.

The bulk of the revenues and expenditures are in the general operating fund — the part of the budget that covers the day-to-day operations of the school district, such as teacher salaries, transportation, food service and a myriad of other costs.

The budget for the general operating fund shows a deficit of $574,089. But SSISD Finance Director Miki Eddins noted while that may seem like a lot, it also includes $600,000 to go toward the next leg of construction of an athletic track at the high school. 

Since the track is considered a one-time project, it may be funded out of the overall fund balance.The budget, minus that amount, is fairly healthy, and would otherwise balance, Eddins explained.

A few other highlights of the budget:

-- Overall, the food service fund is expected to net $1,834,000 in revenues, but will cost the district $1,917,398. Expenditures, however, include a sizable amount the food service director has already allocated from the previous year’s funds for improvements, such as replacing broken and aging equipment with more efficient models. When all is said and done next year, the food service fund should still have $266,602 in reserves, a healthy number, considering that most schools are lucky to break even in food service department, Eddins explained. SSISD’s food service department generally not only breaks even but generally shows a profit.

-- Transportation is also expected to operate in the red, as it does every year. Transportation is expected to generate $329,5511 in revenues, but will likely cost the district $1,137,840 in FY 2008.

-- Co-curricular activities is another part of the budget that always costs more than it generates. That part of the budget, which covers activities outside the classroom such as athletics and fine arts, is expected to cost the district $1,264,089. The district only anticipates receiving $101,100 in revenues for this fund, however.

-- In a separate section, the budget also lists $4,100,204 in federal funds which are pending grant approval, and thus are not factored into the rest of the spending plan. That money will only be used if it is made available. The district in the previous year received $4,832,000 in federal funding. If approved, the special funds would put the district’s revenues at $35,071,279 and expenses at $35,779,582, leaving $5,691,697 in the overall fund balance at the next school year

-- At the recommendation of auditors, less funding will be placed into the worker’s compensation fund due to a surplus of $850,000 left from “overpayments” and the low number of claims in recent years. The district will contribute only  $245,000 to the self-funded worker’s compensation fund. expenditures are expected to outpace revenue in the fund by $85,910, SSISD Finance Director Miki Eddins explained.

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