Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Supplemental Levy Information Meeting - March 25

Please consider attending the supplemental levy information meeting in the multi-purpose room at 7:00 PM on Thursday, March 25th. I will show a PowerPoint presentation that briefly explains the budgeting process, how state aid is impacted by average daily attendance, the cost of the levy and the reasons that the Board of Trustees passed a resolution requesting that the patrons consider the passage of a supplemental levy to support education in the school district.

The proposed FY2011 maintenance and operations budget includes reductions in staffing, expenditure of carry-over funds and other reductions to arrive at the $700,000 levy request. While this request is more than last years levy, it is less than anticipated due to several factors. However, concern remains that the Governor will declare a 5% hold back in FY2011 due to declining state revenue so we are being advised to prepare for that possibility. The hold back was not anticipated at the time the levy was set.

The entire budget is not finalized and adopted until the June board meeting. There are actually twenty different budgets. The maintenance and operations budget is the main budget which supports the general education of students. The other nineteen budgets address specific areas such as technology, professional-technical education, plant facilities, child nutrition, special education, etc. The M&O budget will change right up to the day it is adopted as additional information is received which helps us determine more accurately the financial position of the school district.

The meeting is a good opportunity to ask your questions about the budget and levy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What factor drives state funding in Idaho?

The primary factor which drives the amount of state funding each school district receives is average daily attendance. If you have an enrollment of 300 students and, on average, 15 students are absent daily, then you have a 95% ADA. This means you only get paid for having 285 students even though you still need to provide teachers, classrooms, textbooks, supplies, utilities, busing and more for all of those enrolled; attending or not.

Some have argued that funding should be based on enrollment, not attendance since schools have to prepare for the maximum number of students enrolled. That actually makes a lot of intuitive sense. We can't remove a desk, return a textbook, fire a teacher, or sell a bus in the middle of the school year. If Idaho switched to an enrollment-based system, some districts would lose money and some would gain. While it may not make a lot of economic sense to fund schools based on ADA that is the system used in Idaho.

Three-fourths of our funding is based on the first attendance reporting period from the start of school until the first week in November. The remaining funding is based on our best 28 weeks of attendance. Even though we certify our budget in June, we will not find out until November how accurate our attendance estimates were for the largest portion of our funding. And we won't know for sure until July 15 of the following year how well we estimated our best 28 weeks!

In addition to the obvious educational reasons for students to attend school regularly, the financial impact of poor attendance patterns effects all students regardless of how well or poorly they may attend. The Genesee School District has historically had a 95% attendance rate. Given our current enrollment, that means we lose out on $96,000 worth of potential funding. That is $536 per day or $36.75 for each day a student does not attend school.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Supplemental levy, school calendar and more

The Board set the supplemental levy election last night to be held on April 13 in the amount of $700,000. If the levy passes, there is a high probability that the school calendar for 2010-2011 will be a slightly modified traditional calendar. I presented a sample of what that might look like to the trustees last night and you can see it here. Once again, this is a draft of what next years calendar might look like. I will put together a committee composed of staff members and patrons to provide input to help me formulate a final recommendation to the trustees once we know the status of the levy election.

The Board also directed me to determine the interest for a tuition-based afternoon kindergarten program. The intent is that such a program option would be self-supporting. If a full-day kindergarten option is offered, the preschool would be moved to three mornings a week and taught by a different employee. The Board expects to make a decision in April or May.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jt. District 282 and Proposed State Education Budget

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee passed a FY2011 budget for K-12 education including some important intent language to provide districts with increased financial flexibility and local control. It is anticipated that it will take a week to draft the actual bill. Most people close to the process feel it will pass the Senate without too much difficulty but there is some concern in the House that the JFAC budget does not cut enough to prevent a potential mid-year hold back in FY2011.

Some of the highlights of the proposed state budget include:
  • reduction in state funding of 8.5%
  • transportation reimbursement cut 10%
  • teacher and classified salary apportionment cut 4%
  • administrative salary apportionment cut 6.5%
  • state paid benefits cut proportionately
  • teacher incentive award postponed for at least one year
  • Substance abuse prevention funding cut from $7 million to $290,000
  • technology funding eliminated
  • math and reading initiatives plus ISAT remediation cut 20%
  • Gifted and talented training grants eliminated
  • classroom supply and textbook supply dedicated funds eliminated
  • state discretionary funds reduced 14.4% from the current year
The funds from some of the cuts identified above have been placed into discretionary funding which is the action that helps provide flexibility to districts to meet the current financial conditions. Had the legislature not done so, the discretionary funding could have been reduced 32%. Discretionary funds are used to pay for utilities, employee health insurance, supplies, purchased services, etc.

We have been assured that there will not be a mid-year hold back of FY2010 funds. Of course this just means that funding is reduced for FY2011 but it is always easier for a district to reduce spending before a budget year begins than after we are two-thirds of the way through the year.

We made some cuts during this year in anticipation of a possible hold back which has increased our anticipated fund balance at the end of our fiscal year. We will be able to expend more of our fund balance to help ease the pain in FY2011.

I will be proposing that the Board of Trustees consider setting a supplemental levy for the 2010-2011 school year in the amount of $700,000 with an election to be held on April 13. Because of the increased flexibility provided through JFAC, our increased fund balance due to mid-year spending reductions and to the increased state revenue as a result of the Land Board decision to increase the payment to schools next year, I have been able to produce a preliminary budget that does not require a severely compressed calendar nor additional staff reduction beyond anticipated attrition. That preliminary maintenance and operations budget will be discussed at the regular March board meeting Monday night.