The district uses the money to pad certain sections of the budget, creating cushions in case of emergencies. (For example, if the district budgets $100,000 for heating oil but winds up spending only $90,000, that adds $10,000 to the fund balance.) “In the past, I would not really suggest [cutting the fund balance],” said Robert Bartels, assistant superintendent for business. “It’s not something I’d like to continue doing. It is something that I think, for this particular year, is necessary to keep all of our programs intact, to continue to increase certain portions of the budget that really need to be increased and to utilize reserves to make up any difference.”
The board opted to remove reserve funding from many places it would have otherwise left in extra money as a buffer in case of unforeseen increases or expenses. This comes from money left over the previous year that is given back to taxpayers in each budget.
The cuts will save the district $2.8 million. This means, however, that in the course of the 2013-14 school year, it will need to reduce spending by $2.8 million or start the 2014-15 budget cycle in the hole.
If the district can’t make up the $2.8 million, it will have to tap into its unallocated fund balance in 2014-15 to close the gap. But Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said he is confident that the district will be able to achieve those savings.
“We’ve been able to exceed [$2.8 million] in recent years,” he said. “What happens is we cut the margin and made it more difficult. I think as the year progresses, we’re going to have to see if there aren’t reductions we can make in expenses that will enable us to reach that goal.”
The Board of Education’s budget discussions will continue at upcoming meetings on April 2 and 17.