By Travis Smola
Schoolcraft schools Finance Director Rita Broekema explained how projections show a likely deficit in the general fund of up to $170,000 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year at the school board’s June meeting.
There are several reasons for the potential deficit. Broekema said adoption of the unbalanced high school calendar was more costly than budgeted, primarily in the dual enrollment and early middle college arena. Broekema said when it was still in a conceptual phase it was difficult to project how many students would take advantage of the additional course offerings. More students ended up taking the courses than had been budgeted.
Early middle college and dual enrollments were budgeted for around $260,000. But participation among students was greater than anticipated and it ended up costing around $341,000. “Overall, our participation surpassed anything Ric (Seager), Rusty and I had projected for this year,” Broekema said.
Another surprise came in the form of utilities. The district changed lighting systems in the high school and that alone came in $15,000 over budget. “What we’re finding is our usage decreased,” Broekema said. “It was just the simple cost of utilities.”
Broekema said she would be comfortable with a deficit around $100,000, which would be more manageable by the district, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The biggest factor will be the amount of the state foundation grant, the per-pupil amount the school will receive as part, but not all, of the overall state aid budget. That amount hasn’t been determined by the legislature and governor.
While discussing the capital budget, board Vice President Jason Walther asked if it was possible to flow some funds from capital back to general. Broekema said it was and that the only funds that can’t be moved back and forth are from the debt fund. There would have to be a discussion and agreement on this prior to August 12, when auditors visit the district.
The board tentatively scheduled a meeting in early August to consider passing such a resolution.
The ideal scenario is the state budgeting more money for the upcoming school year. However, Broekema said if the state doesn’t come through, there are other options. Three new teachers are budgeted at a full salary, but that could be reduced. She said the district could also choose to make some difficult decisions in the middle or at the end of the next school year.
The board agreed to have more discussion on the matter at its July board meeting. But Broekema said she feels confident in how the district will handle the issue. She also said she is confident in the board’s judgment when it comes to making tough decisions.
“This board is really cognizant of doing the right thing in the big picture,” Broekema said.