Sikeston R-6 district faces 2011-2012 budget deficit

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

SIKESTON -- Sikeston R-6 School District expects to operate from a nearly $31 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

R-6 Director of Business Services Lori Boardman outlined the revenues and expenses that will leave the district with a spending deficit of about $195,000.

"The board and administration are responsible for public money so when we put the budget together, we have to take into consideration what we have to do and the costs we have to have, and there's only so much money to split within the district," Boardman said.

On June 28 the district's Board of Education adopted the budget for the new fiscal year, which began July 1.

On the revenue side, the biggest blow to the budget is the state formula being funded at only 92 percent -- compared to 94 percent during the 2010-2011 school year, Boardman said. This 8 percent reduction in funding equals $1 million in lost revenue for the district, and there were also additional cuts in transportation, she said, noting forecasters predict more cuts are possible at the state level.

Based on early numbers from the county, the overall levy will be very close to the $3.8075 of fiscal year 2011. A firm levy cannot be set until all calculation for the state auditor are completed, but if there are no surprises, the local funding should be level with last year's, Boardman added.

"The tax levy will be set at an Aug. 15 tax hearing after we have final numbers on assessed valuation from both (Scott and New Madrid) counties and complete the state auditor tax rate formula," Boardman said.

On the expenditures side, overall salary costs will be down again for the new fiscal year.

"The main focus for FY12 was to, again, protect as many jobs as possible for staff," Boardman said. "We continue to evaluate positions and reduce costs through attrition where possible."

Boardman said not being able to unfreeze salaries for the second year is difficult because teachers see surrounding school districts giving employees raises.

"Every school district is facing same financial crisis but every school district is doing things in a different way," Boardman pointed out. "Our goal has been to -- not cut jobs -- just reduce salaries through attrition. Other area school districts have cut jobs and then given raises to the ones who are still employed."

However, one of the brightest spots of the budget process, Boardman said, was the overall 5 percent increase in cost for the health plan.

"In today's market, that's just unheard of," said Boardman, who added a 10 or 15 percent, would have been considered a low increase.

Overall market indicators were as high as 20 or 30 percent in renewal rate increases, she noted.

"We had a good year. Our participation level was high, and we had low claims," Boardman said about the reasoning behind the low rate.

Plus, Anthem was very kind to the district with its renewal rate, the business services director said.

"We were very fortunate to have received such a great renewal on our health insurance policy from Anthem. This nominal increase is just unbelievable and kept us from having to make cuts in other areas of the budget," Boardman said.

Supplies and equipment continue to be based on zero-based budgeting, meaning the schools start with zero dollars and request items based on need to build the budget.

"The building administration and teachers are doing a fantastic job of controlling what costs are within their means to control," Boardman said.

The purchase of a bus was added to the budget to try and get back on the bus rotation schedule.

"Staying off the rotation schedule for too long will exceed the savings of not buying new buses," Boardman said. ".... We will hold off on making that purchase until later in the year to ensure that we don't lose anymore revenue."

No major renovations or technology upgrades are planned, and new textbook series weren't budgeted for the year either, Boardman said.

Hopefully, the outlook will turn around soon, Boardman said.

She said: "We've said all along that it would be 2012-2013 before we could start to see things turn around, and we seem to be on schedule for that."

For the entire story, see the July 6 edition of the Standard Democrat or click here to log on to the electronic edition.

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