By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Members of the CCS board of education chose to cut taxes rather than use $200,000 in other budget areas from a higher-than-projected balance in the treasurer’s office.
The action at the Sept. 14 school board meeting equates to a tax asking of $5,510,000 instead of the proposed $5,710,000 for the 2010-11 budget, or a little over 2.5 cents less per $100 valuation.
The proposed levy to support the $9,545,000 budget had been $1.0091 per $100 valuation. The board’s action last week will drop that levy figure to .9736 cents, which is slightly under the 2009-10 figure.
Supt. Matt Fisher opened the budget hearing last Tuesday, informing board members that the school’s Sept. 1 balance in the treasurer’s office had about $200,000 more than he anticipated at the start of the new budget year.
Basically, Fisher said that means taxes came in better than anticipated.
Because of that, CCS had $200,000 more to start off their 2010-11 budget year than he thought they would.
Fisher offered some options on other possibilities for the funds for the board to consider.
One was taking $150,000 of the $200,000 and putting it in the cash reserve fund, which would put the levy at an even $1. It would still be $50,000 less in property taxes than what had been before them, Fisher noted.
Or, the board could put an additional $101,000 in the building fund, which had no property tax request this coming year in the proposed budget. That would put the levy at .9915 cents, again under the proposal.
“Or we don’t have to do anything,” he said.
After a long discussion, that’s what the board decided on a 9-0 vote.
However, as they weighed those options, impending maintenance to the roof and track, the $215,000 cut in state aid and future uncertainties about the state aid formula and further cuts wove their way through the discussion.
However, in the end, the board felt they had enough money between the cash reserve, the depreciation fund and building funds to do both a roof section and replace the track next year, two major maintenance projects that have been before them.
To help with those projects, the budget already had earmarked a total of $150,000 in the General Fund for the roof.
Even without additional funds put in this coming year, the building fund holds over $533,500. This will be the second consecutive year the board has chosen not to levy property tax for the building fund.
The depreciation fund has over $564,000.
Already placed in the 2010-11 budget proposal was an additional $50,000 in the cash reserve, which puts that fund at $1.8 million.
The board discussed whether falling below the $1 levy level will result in less state aid. Fisher said, generally, it could mean about a $20,000 deduction, but with anticipated changes in the formula, that is a gray area.
Bonds another option
While they chose not to pursue it at this time, Supt. Fisher said there is a “Building America Bonds” program using federal stimulus money available to schools.
He said those bonds could be used for the track repairs, and could ease taking big chunks out of the building fund and cash reserve.
At a two percent interest rate, borrowing $500,000 in this program could be paid off in five years using the building fund, Fisher said.
He said it wouldn’t affect this year’s budget much since all the school who have would be a $6,800 interest payment. The bond payments would start the following budget year.
Replacing the track for half a million dollars is only an estimate from an architect. When the board received that estimate last year, they did not proceed with bids at that time.
In the end, though, board member Gregg Smith read through the growing budget figures from the past several years.
“Maybe it’s time to rein that in some,” Smith said.