School board approves proposed $11.6M budget

The Vermillion School Board gave approval Monday to a proposed budget for the 2010-11 school year that totals nearly $11.6 million.

The budget provides revenue for a variety of funds needed to operate the district, including the general fund and several other fiscal areas such as capital outlay, special education, pensions, bond redemption, and the food service and after school programs.

"You as a board know this proposed budget very well. I just pulled out some key things that I think are important," Superintendent Mark Froke told school board members as they began reviewing the various budget figures. "From a South Dakota standpoint, I would have to say you have a solid financial picture with your budget. You had to address some very serious as far as loss in state aid and also passing a motion to have an opt-out of $800,000, but as things go here and you look at your financial standing, you're in very solid financial position now."

Froke noted that the district's proposed budget was put together with less revenue expected from Pierre because student enrollment is expected to be down slightly when the new school year begins next month.

"We had losses in state aid projected at about $46,000, and that's due to a planned reduction of students and also no additional state aid on per student basis for us and for any of the schools in the upcoming year," he said.

The proposed Vermillion School District's expenditure budget for the 2010-2011 school year has been reduced in nearly every category when compared to last year's budget, in part because of the absence of $960,000 in federal money. "That will be coming to you later," Froke told the school board, "when we get formal confirmation from the state. The real budget difference is a reduction from last year to this year of about $39,000."

The district's general fund for 2010-11 is set at $7,643,424. Last year, it totaled $7,784,493.

"This year, as a one-time (item), we have $102,000 over from special education to the general fund; that was shown as revenue last year … and that won't be an available option to bring monies over for this year," said Sheila Beermann, the school district's business manager. "So that $102,000 that was in the budget in 2010 won't be in there this budget year."

The annual budget approved Monday is for the district's fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. The budget ends June 30, 2011.

The capital outlay budget for the coming school year has been reduced by approximately $740,000. Last year, it totaled $2,162,500. Its proposed amount for the 2010-11 school year is $1,425,000.

"Last year, you applied for a large bond for infrastructure upgrades," Froke told board members, "and that's why that shows such a dramatic reduction."

Reductions are also proposed in the district's special education budget. Last year, that budget totaled $1,536,522. In the proposed 2010-11 budget, $1,479,488 will be expended for special education, a reduction of about $57,000.

"Primarily, that reduction comes to us through tightening our belts," Beermann said, "as we're using fund balance anyway. We're looking for any option to have a budget be exactly where we want to spend the dollars, so I think that is just a reflection of us actually trying to stay within our means a little bit more."

"Special ed financing is very challenging to maintain on a year-to-year basis, and we just really have to manage that very closely," Froke said.

The district's proposed pension budget for 2010-11 totals $141,000, an increase of $2,000 when compared to last year's total. The proposed bond redemption budget totals $268,078. Last year, that budget totaled $272,000. "That can fluctuate on how the bond is called on an annual basis, so that's the variance there."

Froke noted that during the 2009-10 school year, the Vermillion School District's general fund per student allocation was $4,804.60. For the upcoming 2010-11 school year, the district will spend that exact same amount per student.

"There is no increase per student in state aid," Froke said. "So as far as this means to us, this past year, we had 1,269 students. We are projecting 1,259 students for the upcoming year. Consequently, funding will be reduced by $48,046 in the general fund.

General fund per student funding in the district last year totaled $6,097,037. Because fewer students are expected this fall, fewer state aid dollars will be received, reducing the general fund per student funding to $6,048,991.

Property values in the Vermillion School District are up by $8.3 million – an increase of about 2 percent. Last year, for the general fund, the district levied $2.57 per $1,000 valuation on agriculture property, $4.04 per $1,000 on owner-occupied property, and $8.65 per $1,000 valuation on property in the non-ag/other category.

This year's projected levies per $1,000 in valuation for the general fund are projected to be $2.55, $3.96 and $8.49 respectively for those three categories of real property.

The portion of those general fund levies being assessed because of the opt-out of the state's property tax freeze is 91 cents per $1,000 valuation on agriculture property, $1.42 per $1,000 valuation on owner-occupied property, and $3.04 per $1,000 valuation on non-ag property. These levies are assessed this year, and payable in 2011.

"Thank goodness for the opt-out. I think you all know that and we're very appreciative of the Vermillion School District residents for supporting education the way they do and supporting the opt-out," Froke said. "Had the opt-out not gone through again, this district would be in very serious financial trouble. But as it is, we have the $800,000 annual opt-out, and that is for five years.

"It doesn't give us a huge amount of money by any stretch. We still have to watch our budget very closely, and it's very important that everyone knows that just because we have this opt-out, it doesn't allow us to go on a spending spree," he said. "We applied for just what we needed and we still have to watch the budget very closely."

Levies for other funds for the upcoming budget year are $3 per $1,000 valuation for capital outlay, $1.40 per $1,000 for special education, 30 cents per $1,000 valuation for the pension fund, and 64 cents per $1,000 for the bond fund.

Property taxpayers in the Vermillion School District will provide $3,365,435 for the 2010-11 general fund budget. That accounts for approximately 44 percent of the total general fund. The remaining 56 percent of the revenue for the general fund – totaling $4,277,349 – comes from other state, federal and county sources.

A one-time source of "other" funding is stimulus money the district has budgeted for this year. Those funds won't be available next year. Special education stimulus funding includes $13,605 for supplies and curriculum, $30,820 for a special education reading teacher, $23,280 for an autism assistant, $7,589 for early childhood and $7,500 for professional development.

Stimulus funding is also providing revenue for the district's Title I program, including $21,085 for a half-time remedial teacher at the high school, $61,020 for a reading specialist, $5,000 for summer tutor for eighth- and ninth-grade students, $2,500 for summer reading recovery and $13,160 for programs, curriculum and professional development.

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