CRYSTAL FALLS—Red and Black means more to Forest Park than just the school colors. For the Finance Committee of the School Board, it means the color of the ink on the bottom line of the school budget. Would the school district finish its budget year in the black?
Yes, it did, but just barely
During its monthly meeting on June 23, the board approved a set of amendments to the 2013-14 budget and then the proposed 2014-15 general budget.
“As of right now we’re in the positive, and that’s the best we can hope for,” said Finance Committee Chairman Lisa Bloomburg, She said the district is waiting for the district’s annual audit to find out what its end balance will be.
The final amended budget shows Forest Park started its 2013-14 budget year with equity of $136,200. Total revenue for the year was $3.786 million against expenses of $3.919 million.
That leaves Forest Park with a frighteningly frail fund balance of $3,068 entering the 2014-15 school year—less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the district’s annual budget. That figure will change once the audit is finished.
In her report, Superintendent Becky Waters cited unforeseen costs from speech services, along with snow plowing, heating and electricity after a severe winter. “Times are tough when you get less than inflation rate of increase from the state of Michigan,” she added, “and no other revenue sources available to public schools.
“I am trying desperately to retain personnel and programs.”
Before the meeting, the committee went over all the 2013-14 budgets and approved a set of amendments.
As for the new year’s budget, Bloomburg said there are many knowns and unknowns. The unknowns include state funding for K-12 schools and Forest Park’s own audit. “We will be revising this once we have the audit and the governor signs the bill for the school budget,” she said. The new budget was also approved unanimously.
The new budget starts with a fund balance of $3,068, projected revenues of $3.726 million and expenses of $3.727 million. That would leave Forest Park with a fund balance of just $1,672 when the budget year ends on June 30, 2015.
At the annual Truth in Taxation hearing, which preceded the regular meeting, the board approved its state levy (6.0 mills) and its operating levy (17.6874 mills). Both are unchanged from last year.
However, there will be a slight increase in the debt levy, from 2.95 mills last year to 3.12 mills this year. This is because of a decrease in taxable values, partly due to the Great Lakes Pipeline ruling.
The debt levy is collected to pay back three bonds that voters approved in 2005, 2008 and 2012. (The 2005 bond refinanced the 1998 bond for the new school building at a lower interest rate.)
Over the years, Forest Park’s 18-mill operating levy has been reduced to 17.6874 mills due to the Headlee Amendment. Board Member Bill St. John asked if there is any way the district can collect the full 18 mills.
The only way to do that, said business manager Kathy Stankewicz, is to get voter approval of a higher millage. By law, Forest Park can only collect 18 mills. But if voters approve a 20-mill levy, for example, the Headlee rollback would be based on that figure—the reduced levy would still be over 18 mills, and the district could still collect 18.
“It gives you some room to actually get to 18 because of how many times Headlee rolls back.”
• On a separate matter, the board approved taking a short-term cash flow loan from Forward Financial, at an interest rate of 0.74 percent.
“A very favorable rate,” Bloomburg said. The funds are only needed until state funding and property taxes come in.
revenue start coming in.
• The board tabled bids for sidewalk, curb and railing work. Board President Jim Nocerini cited some discrepancies, and board members seemed to feel it would be best to rebid the work. Once updated quotes are in, the contract will go to the low bidder.
• The district is still looking for a speech therapist. “They are few and far between,” Bloomburg said, “and they are definitely needed up here.”
• The district will print the student handbook itself, in 8½-by-11 form. Waters said the district wanted it in a book form, but that would cost “substantially more.”
“I think for the sake of economic frugalness, we’re going to copy it ourselves.”
The student handbook will be distributed at the annual open house, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 26 (instead of Wednesday, due to a number of conflicts including a JV football game and the first day of the county fair).
• High school-middle school Principal Lisa Olson reported she is looking at a workbook that can be reused for her econ class. A bigger problem is the eighth grade history book. The current books are 20 to 30 years old,
She said she hopes to get by with them for one more year. “This is the last large class for eighth grade,” she noted, “so we did not do it for this year, because then there would be extra,” Instead, she will prepare a book proposal for next year.
“It’s not that the textbook itself is bad,” Olson said. “It’s just that literally, after 20 or 30 years of use, they’re falling apart.”
• The board’s July meeting has been moved to Wednesday, July 23, at 6 p.m. The superintendent will be out of town on the regular meeting date, July 27.