School Board gets overview of $81M budget

CENTERVILLE — The St. Mary Parish School Board is expected to run its operations during the current 2011-12 fiscal year utilizing an approximately $81.32 million General Fund budget and much smaller maintenance and food service budgets.

Schools Chief Financial Officer Alton Perry gave board members an overview of the current fiscal year, which began Friday and will end June 30, 2012.

The General Fund budget includes about $78.95 million in revenues and $81.32 million in expenditures.

However, the board is expected to finish the 2011-12 fiscal year with about a $23.11 million surplus when factoring in the projected balance of approximately $25.47 million from the recently completed 2010-11 fiscal year.

“We basically have all of our programs for the most part intact,” Perry said, adding that a reduction in force policy did not have to be implemented in St. Mary Parish like it has in surrounding districts.

“I really think that’s be-cause the board’s had the foresight (in the past) to put money aside,” he said.

Of the General Fund expenditures, the board’s main account it operates from, the General Fund 10 account, is projected to have revenues of about $77.28 million and expenditures of approximately $79.85 million.

Adding in the year-end 2010-11 fund balance of about $23.62 million, the board is expected to end the 2011-12 fiscal year with a $21.05 million balance.

The board also received projections on its three Maintenance Districts, which primarily derive their revenues from property tax.

In District 1 (Baldwin to Centerville), revenues are projected at about $1.93 million, expenditures are pegged at about $1.81 mil-lion. After adding in a beginning year fund balance of approximately $1.58 million and subtracting a $500,000 allotment required to sustain operations until taxes are collected in January, an estimated $1.21 million budget is projected as of June 30, 2012.

In District 2 (Calumet to Berwick), revenues are pegged at about $1.75 million, while expenditures are estimated at $1.75 million.

After adding in a $998,072 balance carried over from 2010-11 as well as $500,000 deductions until tax collections are received, the board will have an ending year fund balance of about $504,144.

In District 3 (Morgan City to Amelia), the committee is expected to generate total revenues of about $2.77 million and spend approximately $2.98 million.

Adding in the 2010-11 year-end balance of about $1.74 million and subtracting the $500,000 fee as in the other two maintenance districts, the board projects an approximately $1.04 million balance on June 30, 2012.

In the board’s school food service budget, revenues of about $5.84 million are expected in the 2011-12 spending plan along with expenditures of about $5.84 million. Adding in the projected fund balance of $126,337 remaining from the 2010-11 fiscal year, the board projects a $127,842 balance as of June 30, 2012.

Specifically, Perry explained that in the General Fund 10 balance, the board is projected to have a surplus of about $2.58 million just from the 2010-11 fiscal year operations. Of that amount, about $1.83 million is from its amended budget, while the remainder includes $300,000 in a technology transfer and $450,000 in designated health insurance premium increases.

That’s a turnaround from the 2010-11 budget, which was adopted with about a $2.25 million deficit that was plugged with different sources, including $1.5 million in contingency funds.

In this year’s spending plan for the General Fund 10 account, Perry noted that he budgeted sales tax decreases of $350,000 and property taxes of $200,000.

While he has no indication from either the parish Assessor’s office or the Sales Tax Department that revenues will be down this year, he said the board always budgeted those 2 to 2.5 percent reductions to be conservative. The same method is undertaken in the maintenance district budgets, too.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

This past year, the board received $3.2 million more in sales tax collections than budgeted and about $1.2 million more in property taxes.

Perry also noted a reallocation of costs previously paid by American Recovery and Reinvestment funds (federal stimulus funds) that no longer are available and now are being absorbed either by the General Fund 10 account, a federal Edujobs grant and other federal programs.

Of the $1.35 million in funding that was covered by stimulus funds, the board put back $709,437 of these expenditures, which include salaries and benefits, tutoring and summer remediation work, back in.

Edujobs federal revenue will be used to pay for salary and benefits of an academic recovery specialist, curriculum facilitators, as well as other salaries and benefits. The district received $560,048 in Edujobs grants for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

“We only moved back what we had to in (the) General Fund,” Perry said. “We used our other federal programs when we could.”

Perry also noted in the budget a decrease in Minimum Foundation Program funding of $999,339, which he attributed mostly to no student growth in the district.

Other hits to the budget includes about $1.78 million in retirement costs.

“This is what’s killing us,” Perry said.

Of these figures, $1.65 million come from the teacher retirement contribution rate, which increased from 20.2 percent to 23.7 percent.

Another $125,000 is included in school employee retirement contribution rates, which rose from 24.3 percent to 28.6 percent.

“These are absurd numbers,” Perry said.

The board also will absorb a projected $400,000 because it will have to purchase science textbooks for elementary, junior and high school students.

Savings to the General Fund 10 budget include the reduction of nine regular and special education teachers, which will save $526,500, and a reduction of four teachers at the Alternative School staff by four teachers which will save $222,139.

Perry said cuts in these two areas are not anticipated to impact instruction, mostly because of a loss of students.

The school system’s chief financial officer also noted in the coming year positives in the board’s Medicaid Fund, which is projected to generate a fund balance of about $1.79 million through June 30, 2012.

He said that account helped the General Fund during the past year by the funding that was secured.

In the School’s Food Service Budget, Perry noted that 41.4 percent of the budget, or about $2.42 million, is con-sumed by benefits.

“They have challenges, unique to anybody else, because they have to pay Social Security and retirement,” he said of food service employees.

The CFO said that food costs, which equate to $948,805 (16.2 percent) are difficult to control, but the district has made headway by using less prepared foods.

In other budgetary items, the board agreed to purchase 18 walk-through metal detectors. One each will be used at each of the parish’s junior high schools, except for Centerville School, which will be given two. The other five will be kept on standby for use as needed.

The board also agreed to allocate an additional $18,000 for its three maintenance districts — $8,000 for District 1, $6,000 for District 2 and $4,000 for District 3, to help with bus maintenance repair costs.

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