District 200 faces more declining revenue in new budget
As WoodstockSchool District 200 develops its budget for the 2012-13 school year, it faces the same challenges it has faced the past four years — declining revenue.
Current projections show revenue for next year at about $2.67 million below expenses. Most of the shortfall is due to reduced state funding. For 2012-13, D-200 will receive about $1.1 million less than it did in 2011-12, according to the formula used by the state. Transportation reimbursements, which were reduced by $800,000 in late 2011, will not return to previous levels. In addition, $216,067 in federal stimulus money will be gone.
“I think we were surprised that our General State Aid dropped as much as it did,” said D-200 Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski. “The state is using an EAV [equalized assessed value] that shows Woodstock is still growing dramatically.”
D-200 shifted its annual purchase of tort immunity insurance from bond financing to its education fund, adding a new expenditure of about $600,000.
To meet the shortfall, the district will cut $1.6 million in expenditures and use $1 million in fund reserves.
The bulk of the spending cuts are personnel. At its March 20 meeting, the board eliminated 16 teaching positions and 23.5 noncertified positions to save about $1.3 million.
“If we find ourselves in a better financial position in terms of state revenues or the fund balance, we will consider adding back some of the reduced personnel,” said Wrzeski, in a D-200.
Building budgets will be cut by 10 percent, administrators’ salaries are frozen and $213,000 will be cut from administrative budgets.
As the district copes with declining state revenue, spring staff reductions have become an annual event. In 2009, the district cut its budget by $2.9 million, and in 2010 reduced it by $3.6 million.
Wrzeski said prudent financial management has maintained class sizes at an average of 24-25 in kindergarten through second grade, 26-28 in third to fifth grade, 28-30 in sixth to eighth grades and an overall range of 28-30 at the high school level.
“We put an emphasis on class size and any additional revenue we’ve put back into staff,” she said.
With help from booster programs, the district has continued programs such as art, music, physical education, library services, health services, counseling and extracurricular activities.
The remaining budget shortfall will be met with $1 million in fund reserves. The district has about $13 million in its three main funds, which have not been allocated for spending. Hanson compared the balances to a savings account or extra funds left in a checking account.
“The recommendations from the state and accounting organizations is to have cash on hand equal to 25 percent of your budget to deal with emergencies,” Hanson said.
Wrzeski said she’s sometimes questioned about why such a large amount is needed.
“People say spend it, but if we do, how do we absorb $800,000 reductions or delayed payments? If we don’t have money for cash flow, we’re in trouble,” she said. The state currently owes the district approximately $2 million in delayed transportation and special education reimbursements.
The district tapped its reserves twice in 2011. In the spring, it used $1 million to avoid cutting additional positions and programs. In the fall, another $800,000 was used to fill a shortfall in transportation funding.
Hanson said the current budget year should end June 30 with slight increases in the fund balances, due to careful spending and a mild winter which reduced expenditures for heating and snow plowing.