Steamboat School Board OKs budget | SteamboatToday.com

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Steamboat School Board OKs budget

The Steamboat Springs School Board earlier this week approved a budget of almost $17 million with an estimated $41,000 deficit.

Dale Mellor, director of finance and operations for the district, said next year’s budget is not too different from this year’s budget. The primary change is planned salary increases.

“Everything else really is staying pretty close to the same,” Mellor said.

The deficit mostly results from a $57,000 increase in workers compensation insurance premiums, $81,000 given to the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services to fund a new English as a Second Language coordinator and some salary increases. There also are savings from changes in staffing and other factors, Mellor said.

The district projects having an almost $7 million fund balance in its general fund.

Some teachers and staff have questioned having such a large fund balance, saying it should be used for larger increases in salaries.

“We’re still wondering how much is enough for reserves,” said Brad Kindred, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association. “It’s kind of unfortunate that they can’t bump raises up, but it seems like the reserve continues to grow.”

Mellor, however, said the fund balance is used for cash-flow purposes so that operating costs can be paid without borrowing funds while the district waits to receive twice-a-year revenues from property taxes.

Mellor also said it is fiscally irresponsible to use the fund balance, a one-time source of funds, to pay for ongoing expenses.

He has heard concerns about carrying such a fund balance since he began working at the district seven years ago.

“We’ve heard this year after year,” he said. “We’ve just got differences in philosophy.”

The fund balance is from an accumulation of net income during multiple years, Mellor said. Any time the district has spent less than it receives, those funds have gone into the general fund balance.

That does not happen every year — some years, funds are taken from the balance. If there is a deficit next year, the $41,000 needed to balance the budget will come from the fund balance, Mellor said.

The district plans to spend $16.71 million from the general fund next fiscal year, an increase of about $660,000 from the current year.

The bulk of that increase comes from higher payroll expenses — about $466,000 — caused by salary increases and increases in ESL personnel. The total amount spent on payroll is about $13 million.

Supplies and purchased services will increase by about $132,000, primarily because of a new budgeting process in which expenses of the Education Fund Board’s Technology Commission are budgeted in the general fund.

Revenues increased about $611,000 because of increases in property taxes, the cost-of-living adjustment and a 0.91 percent increase in per-pupil revenues. Total revenues are estimated at about $16.67 million.

The budget includes an average salary increase for certified teachers of 4.88 percent, which includes a salary step, and an average salary increase of 4 percent for support staff, which also includes a salary step.

Those numbers are not final, however, because the entire salary and benefits package was voted down by district employees two weeks ago.

Also, a 1.91 percent salary increase was budgeted for district administrators.

Employee health insurance costs are anticipated to decrease by 4 percent because the district now has an employee-only premium that does not include retirees.

Changes to the budget can be made any time before next fall.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com