Late taxes aid school budget decisions

Published on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The collection of approximately two years’ worth of back taxes has helped the Blaine school district avoid budget reductions that could have included serious cuts to programs.

District business manager Amber Porter said about $340,000 in back taxes helped build up the amount the district can carry over to the 2011/2012 school year to just over $500,000. The back taxes, in addition to salary reductions the district has agreed upon with its faculty and administrators, will most likely forestall the $464,000 in program and staff reductions the district had prepared for months ago.

Superintendent Ron Spanjer said the $464,000 block of reductions, contained within the $1.7 million in reductions the school board approved in April, represented the first priority for reinstatement if the district found the necessary funds. Spanjer said he’s confident the $464,000 block will remain intact by the time the budget comes up for approval at the school board’s August 22 meeting.

“Were hanging on to programs, which is what it’s all about,” Spanjer said.

For the upcoming school year, Porter plans to bring about $20.4 million into the district’s general fund, through which most expenses are paid, and spend about $21 million. The projected beginning general fund balance will make up the difference, Porter explained.

Though the $464,000 in reductions will most likely not have to be made, the district is still making reductions to office supplies and other support materials and will make the Associated Student Body (ASB) responsible for more of its costs. These changes require an ASB vote for approval.

The district is also expecting increased food and fuel costs. Porter estimated a 10 percent increase in food prices and prepared for gas prices to continue to increase.

“We should be OK if gas hits $5 a gallon,” Porter said.

Some increased costs are also represented in the lighting retrofits the district will have to make to keep in line with changing federal energy-efficient light bulb regulations, Porter said. These lighting upgrades would have been paid for if the district’s $32 million bond initiative had passed.

On the salary side, Spanjer said he has given up four days of salary for the 2011/2012 school year, while principals and certificated faculty have given up two-and-one-half days and two days, respectively. Negotiations with the Service Employees International Union, which represents the district’s service staff, are ongoing.

The state legislature decreased funding for school district’s employees’ salaries by 1.9 percent, which means about $200,000 less for the Blaine school district for salaries, Porter explained. The district initially sent out 25 reduction in force notices, but has officially rescinded all but the 14 sent to the district’s classified staff, which includes service workers.