In spite of bumps, school budget emerges

The South Whidbey Board of Education is poised to approve a general fund budget for the 2003-04 school year on Aug. 25, despite recent bumps in the road.

Even as the district tries to recover from a $369,000 mistake made in its books and the resignation of its business manager, the budget is, apparently, on track for an on-time approval by the board. A budget summary prepared by administrators and financial consultant John Jenft shows the district expects to spend $16,184,579 next year in the general fund, about $225,000 less than projected revenues of $16,409,579.

Nearly half have of that money -- 48.56 percent to be exact -- will be spent on salaries for teachers and administrators, about the same as last year. Classified personnel salaries make up about 17 percent of the general fund budget, a number that has held steady for the past two years.

This year's anticipated revenue is down from the $16,582,449 that came in last year. Estimated expenditures also are down, cut by about $85,000.

For the 2003-04 school year, the district is budgeting for 2,140 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, including Running Start program participants. This is a projected decrease in enrollment of 40 students from the previous year.

The number of certificated employees, the category that includes teachers and administrators, will decrease by about four this year, down from 147. The number of classified employees this year is down by two from 84.

Washington state school districts record expenditures in five funds. Most of the money is spent on the day-to-day operation of the district.

The district's other funds are: the Associated Student Body fund of $361,439, which is used for student activities; a debt service fund of $2,548,998; a capital projects fund of $2,000; and a transportation vehicle fund of $187,501. This fund is used to purchase new vehicles. Budgeted for transportation operation is $570,000, $67,000 less than last year.

Excess levies for 2004 collection are $3,190,370.

The ending fund balance in the new budget is projected to be $438,000. At issue recently was a miscalculation of fund balance. It was projected to be $607,000, but due to a delayed adjustment of declining revenues -- including bus ridership, a failure to book expenses carried forward from last year, and expenditures authorized based upon the supposed size of the fund balance -- the balance was actually $238,000.

During last weeks school board workshop, the board approved moving $100,000 from an Internal reserve to beef the fund balance up to $338,000.

State budget cuts have hurt all 296 school districts in the state. The state education budget approved by legislators and Gov. Gary Locke's budget falls short of spending needs by about $600 million.

The South Whidbey School District is a member of Washington Education Service District 189 with 20 others considered first-class districts with enrollment in excess of of 2,000. By law, first class districts are required to adopt new budgets by Aug. 31.

According to Marilyn Sollers, fiscal coordinator for ESD 189, "only 9 of the 21 districts have adopted their budgets so far."

"Most schedule meetings in August for that purpose," Sollers said.

Only two districts, Mukilteo and Mount Vernon adopted budgets in July.

Second class schools in ESD 189, such as Coupeville, San Juan, Concrete, San Juan are required to adopt by July 31.

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