Working under the premise that Kansas Senate Bill 423 will be upheld, USD 373 Director of Business Services Matt Morford had a pretty rosy report to give the Newton school board earlier this week on the 2018-2019 proposed budget.
Given the adjustments made in the most recent school financing legislation, the Newton school district is looking at a bump of about $425,000 in general fund state aid — as well as a similar spike in special education and a minor increase in the local option budget state aid for 2018-2019.
However, Morford did note that since the estimated full-time equivalency enrollment is projected to decrease in 2018-2019, the district's spending authority in the local option budget will drop as well, as the enrollment trends continue to hamper the district.
"The weightings (for state aid) have pretty much stayed flat over the last 40 years," Morford said. "The enrollment is what's getting us."
Additionally, there would be an increased influx of $1 million in the KPERS fund, but as Superintendent Deb Hamm reminded the board that is pass-through funding — and something that simply has to be included as part of the budgeting process.
While there were questions about the high enrollment FTE, Hamm noted that is a factor in the budget intended to maintain the equitability of funding across districts throughout the state (particularly to generate similar amounts of money in smaller school districts).
Projected revenue (including state aid, federal aid and property taxes) for 2018-2019 stands at $51,503,920 for the district, while the proposed budget was set at $56,235,922.
Breaking that down in detail, Morford highlighted the fact that 70 percent of the district's budget goes towards instruction or instructional support (anything tied to the classroom). More specifically, just paying staff takes up 84 percent of the general fund and local option budget.
"Salaries and benefits eat up a big chunk of our budget," Morford said.
Ending cash balances transferred over in district budgets have come under scrutiny recently, Morford stated, but he and Hamm also clarified why that is done — as they are set aside for major payments in the budget schedule (i.e. bond payments) and are meant to tide the district over until the main period of revenue collection.
"Unencumbered cash is used to pay all of our bills between now and our major tax revenue receipt time, which is much later in the school year," Hamm said.
With the proposed budget, USD 373 would not see an increase in its total mills levied. In fact, the district mills levied would decrease by .047 mills. However, since USD 373 is the taxing agency for the Newton Recreation Commission — which did vote to increase its mill levy — there will by a slight increase of .178 mills in the total mill levy.
As Morford reiterated, though, the budget sets the peak authority for the school board — and there is nothing that would stop it from spending less of the budgeted funds.
"That just lists the maximum that we can spend in that fund without having to republish. We don't plan on spending all that money, but if something unexpected comes up — another A/C unit somewhere — we have the authority to go ahead and spend that money," Morford said.
Following Morford's report, the Newton BOE voted to publish the budget for 2018-2019 as presented.