Board battles budget blues Reserves will be depleted by 2004-05 school year

Board battles budget blues Reserves will be depleted by 2004-05 school year by David Lias Legislators in Pierre aren't the only people trying to find ways to make ends meet during a lean economic era in South Dakota.

The Vermillion School Board, projecting a significant shortfall in its budget in the near future, is making plans to cut programs to stop the school district from drowning in red ink.

Eventually, however, when all of the district's reserve funds have been spent and no more cuts in staff or programs can be found, the district may be forced to seek an opt out from the state's property tax freeze to raise needed revenue.

The school board received a list of possible budget cuts and shifts totaling over $200,000 for the 2003-04 school year from Superintendent Robert Mayer at its Jan. 27 meeting.

The board has yet to take any action on this latest round of suggested budget cuts.

Mayer noted that if the board decides to approve the list he presented them, total reductions in general fund expenditures in the Vermillion School District will, over a three year period, hit the $1 million mark.

Specific items identified in this most recent list of suggested budget reductions include the cutting of one teaching position via attrition at the high school, additional administrative cuts at the high school, elimination of the new teacher mentor program, as well as small cuts in extra-curricular activities.

Also included was a cut in adminstrative support at the district's central office that was made earlier this year.

The report also identified savings that resulted from having an unexpected budget windfall at the end of the 2001-02 school year. Because of the windfall, the district did not have to borrow money to meet cash-flow needs this year.

The cost savings from not borrowing money, along with interest earned on the fund balance improved the current budget by about $55,000.

Mayer cautioned the board that this was a one-time savings, and next year the district would have to borrow money to cover cash-flow needs.

Board President Tom Craig said during the current school year the district was projecting a nearly $500,000 shortfall. Use of reserves will cover the shortfall for the 2002-03 school year.

The shortfall for 2003-04 is projected to be around $700,000. Budget cuts and use of reserves will cover the 2003-04 shortfall.

At the beginning of the 2002-03 school year, the district had $1 million in reserves. It is projected that by the beginning of the 2004-05 school year, the vast majority of reserves will have been spent to cover shortfalls.

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