School Board makes statement by increasing reserve fund

"The South Whidbey School Board unexpectedly put more money in the reserve lockbox at its Aug. 27 meeting.Budget Director Rex Miller went before the board to read the resolutions that would adopt the budget for the 2001-2002 school year, but several board members insisted the external reserve funds be increased.The discussion centered on budgetary terminology, and whether funds were better allocated to a special reserve, or kept more readily accessible in an internal reserve. It sounded much like arguments about the Social Security lockbox, which exists only in the minds of politicians.But the board majority wanted more funds securely locked away, figuratively at least, in an external reserve. Miller had proposed a reserve account of $574,000, which wasn't good enough for the majority.Ray Gabelein moved to increase the reserve to $600,000. Miller said that would require some changes to the proposed budget, which he didn't seem entirely comfortable with.But Gabelein's position was backed up by Barbara Schneeman, who pointed out the board's three-year goal of achieving a 5 percent reserve. This is the second year of that goal, which this year would amount to about an $800,000 reserve.JIm Adsley, board present, sided with Gabelein and Schneeman. Our fund balance went backwards this year, he claimed.Wendy Alexander thought the budget was fine as presented. The money's still there, just not the way you want to see it, she told Adsley.Bob Riggs sided with Alexander. He worried that a higher reserve might tie our hands on how we can use the money.But Miller pointed out that the board really isn't tying its own hands. If an emergency hits we can spend every nickel of this, he said, waving the budget document in the air.Adsley agreed that all the money could be spent, but explained that the majority wanted to make a statement with a $600,000 reserve.Gabelein, Schneeman and Adsley voted for the motion. Riggs abstained and Alexander voted nay. "

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