Saline Area Schools adopted another “good news” budget at its meeting June 27.
In all the district is budgeting for $59,165,304 in revenue and $58,955,899 in expenditures, netting a surplus of $209,406. That would bring the district’s fund balance to about $3.5 million -- or about 5.95 percent of the general fund budget.
It appears the fiscal year ending June 30 will end with a $116,372 surplus after $58,537,887 in expenses and a fund balance of $3,229,477, or 5.64 percent of the general fund.
The fund balances are substantially less than what was forecast only a year ago, when the district budgeted for a fund balance of 6.7 percent. That’s because the district has reprioritized money to lower class sizes and create a capital improvements fund.
“I’m happy with where we’re at. We accomplished a lot of things we were hoping to with the budget,” said Board of Education President Tim Austin.
One of those things was reducing class size – especially at the elementary level, where small class size is thought to have the best benefit. The district accomplished this by hiring even more teachers than originally planned, according to Janice Warner, Assistant Superintendent for Finance.
“We are proud to be able to lower class sizes, as well,” Austin said.
Austin was also pleased to see teachers and administrators get raises in the recent contracts.
“The increases were well deserved and needed. They’d gone several years with basically flat wages. We had some money to be able to give them raises they deserved,” Austin said.
For this year, the district received a little more help from the State of Michigan. The district is receiving $119-per-pupil more than last year, bringing the foundation allowance to $7,567 per student. The district is also receiving an extra $25 per high school student and a little more funding for at-risk students. That amounts to an additional $646,000.
The district is also expecting an additional 30 students in enrollment, for another $229,000 in revenue. Property value increases will provide an additional $280,000. On the other hand, the district isn’t expecting as much revenue in Act 18 funding from the WISD. And the one-time money from the Houghton Elementary School development will fall from $400,000 last year to $50,000 this year.
All in all, it’s an extra $511,000 in revenue.
Those extra teachers and raises come with higher costs. The district expects to spend an extra $750,000 for salary and benefit costs in 2017-18.
Another increased cost is a $200,000 transfer to the district’s capital projects fund.
That’s part of a promise to voters, Austin said.
“When we sold the bond idea to the public, we told voters we were going to create a capital projects fund to help with improvement projects around the district,” Austin said.
The capital improvements fund should be $185,000 at the end of this fiscal year. It’s budgeted to increase to $560,000 by the end of the adopted budget – giving the district a little extra cushion and flexibility when unforeseen expenses arise.
Warner said the budget reflects the district’s strategic goals.
“It shows our priorities. It’s student-focused and community focused. We’ve reduced class sizes and added a young fives program that has generated a lot of interest. We’ve settled our contracts and all sides seem happy with where we are at. We’re also focusing on using funds to keep our students safe, warm and dry. Most of that is being done with bond money, but our capital projects fund gives us a cushion for future projects,” Warner said.
Often, the state’s increases in funding are negated by a claw-back somewhere else. But Warner said that doesn’t appear to be the case this year.
In a little more than two years, the 10-year, .35-mill sinking fund maintenance and repair millage expires. Sinking fund millages have become more useful to districts since the state approved a law that allows the revenue to be used on technological and security upgrades. Newly proposed legislation would allow the district to use sinking fund millage revenue to purchase school buses. This kind of flexibility gives the district the ability to spend money efficiently. In the past, to avoid using classroom money on tech or school buses, the district would use bond money. But few people like the idea of paying for short life-span items with 30-year bonds.