School finances not expected to turn around any time soon

Lagging revenue from state sources have led to a $2 million budget deficit this year for the Monticello School District, and superintendent Vic Zimmerman feels there could be a repeat next year unless budget cuts are made or Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax revenue recovers.

“I have no reason to sit here today and believe our revenue side is going to improve drastically,” said Zimmerman at the Dec. 19 school board meeting.

“It continues to look bad for next year,” he added in predicting state revenue will continue to decrease. “The only saving grace could be a possible increase in CPPRT, but I don't expect that to happen.”

CPPRT makes up 45 percent of district revenues, but replacement tax proceeds are expected to drop $1.8 million to a total of $5.1 million this school year.

Tying into a facilities study that was presented earlier in the meeting, Zimmerman showed how operating less buildings could cut operating costs. He crunched numbers and estimated a $600-750,000 savings annually if the district decided to shutter White Heath Elementary. The dollars would be saved through less operating costs as well as fewer cafeteria, custodial and administrative staff.

“That's the type of large operating cost savings down the line that we could potentially see by consolidating buildings,” said Zimmerman. “So when we look at facilities, there are some large dollar up-front costs for construction, but there are some very large potential savings that can reduce the expense side of the equation.”

School Board President Jim Coleman emphasized that the talk about White Heath “is just a discussion, not a decision the board is making. None of this is going to happen without significant discussion involving other shareholders in this process. But we have to discuss all scenarios.”

When asked where students would be housed if White Heath was closed, Zimmerman said room would be made at Lincoln Elementary for second graders, while third grade students would attend classes at Washington Elementary.

Other cost-cutting ideas could include trimming programs and/or increasing class sizes.

The school district entered this year with $7 million in fund balances, but at the current rate that could be depleted in about three years. If a tax rate increase is considered, it would take 1-2 years for those new dollars to roll in, prompting Coleman to say “we don't have a lot of time to figure this out.”

Fund reserves include just $3 million in the Education Fund, which is projected to spend $1.4 million more than it is projected to bring in during the 2012-13 school year.

Other action
In other action, the board:
• Recognized both middle school girls' basketball squads. The seventh grade Sages were state champions, and the eighth graders placed second at state;
• was served coffee by the Life Skills class Sages Cafe, which started operating at the high school last month. Life Skills instructor Marlise Dahl said she is “always looking for more vocational opportunities” and that Sages Cafe has “turned into something pretty cool not only for us, but for the whole school.”
•approved a combined band/chorus trip to Washington, D.C. in the spring if 2014;
•approved an intergovernmental agreement for the fiber optic network;
•approved the resignation of Brian Gorman, high school social studies teacher; and retirements of Jeff Butler, high school math teacher)and Deb McPheeters, White Heath cook.

Categories (2):News, Education

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