Highland News Leader

Highland School Board to vote on $32 million budget

The Highland School Board will consider a $32 million budget for the next fiscal year when it meets on Sept. 26.

This year’s budget represents an 8 percent increase over last year’s $29.5 million spending plan, and projects at at $2.2 million total deficit. However, most of the increased spending and deficit comes from the district’s investment in health/life safety projects.

“Our Capital Projects Fund show a huge deficit, because we have started all our projects,” said Tim Bair, the district’s business manager.

The district is planning more than $2.4 million in such projects this year. The board approved issuing approximately $6 million in health/life safety bonds in April. Property taxes are how the bonds, which are not subject to public referendum, will be repaid. The district has identified about $8 million of life safety, fire prevention, energy conservation and school security work that needs to be done.

The 10-year bonds were sold at a premium, with an interest rate of 2.8 percent. Property taxes are how the bonds, which are not subject to public referendum, will be repaid.

On the operations side, things are looking better.

“We were able to balance the Education Fund, so that’s a good thing,” Bair said.

The Education Fund, which pays for teachers and textbooks, is projected to by a $19.5 million expense. Last year, the fund ran a $169,037 deficit, which had to be bridged with money from working cash bond district voters OKed in voters.

“Normally, that’s what’s gone to offset the deficit in the Education Fund,” Bair said.

Voters approved $5 million in working cash bonds in 2011. The district has only issued $2 million and has until November 2017 to decide if it wants to issued the balance.

Bair said revenue for the Education Fund is looking up, because of increased property taxes.

“Real estate taxes are up a little bit over 1 percent,” Bair said.

Also, the Legislature approved 100 percent general state aid funding in its last budget. The state had been pro-rating school funding for years. But it’s not all good news when it comes to state revenue.

“Even though they are funding general state aid fully, they are still hitting us in these other categories,” Bair said.

Transportation funding is such an area.

“This year, they told us to expect 69 percent funding,” Bair said.

That may mean those working cash bonds may yet be needed.

“If that transportation thing doesn’t turn around, we may end up using that same money to do that,” Bair said.

This year’s budget is currently on display at the Highland School District Administrative Center for the public to review. During the meeting on Sept. 26, a public hearing will also be held for anyone who wishes to address the board over the budget.

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