Board approves budget below last year’s dollar total

At the end of a marathon meeting, the Oak Harbor School Board approved the district’s $45.2 million budget Monday night.

The adoption marks the end of a long budget development process that included closing Clover Valley Elementary School, eliminating teaching staff and laying off support staff.

Despite finally balancing the 2007-2008 school year budget, officials are concerned that the state won’t keep up with rising employee costs and the school district will have to continue to make cuts in coming years.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said the school district had to pay $500,000 in increased employee costs that weren’t covered by state funding this year.

The district’s contribution to the employee retirement system doubled and the state didn’t cover all employee raises despite mandating a 3.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment for school staff.

“Those kind of systematic increases that are built into the system are going to happen every year,” Schulte said.

School officials had to slash approximately $2.3 million from its budget this year. They cited declining enrollment, a dwindling fund balance and rising employee costs as reasons for the cutbacks.

School board members were concerned about enrollment figures for the coming school year. The school district has budgeted for the equivalent of 5,200 full-time students attending Oak Harbor schools in the fall. Last year the school district had planned enrollment at 5,566 students, however actual enrollment was 5,308 students.

Last year, the school district had to make approximately $700,000 in cuts when enrollment fell short of projections. School district enrollment has steadily declined over the past several years.

Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said current enrollment is approximately 40 full-time students under the budgeted amount.

However, in the past enrollment has typically increased by six percent during the first several weeks of the school year.

“We should be well above the budgeted amount,” Gibbon said.

An accurate enrollment projection is important because the state bases its funding on the number of students enrolled. Approximately 75 percent, or $33.9 million, of the school district’s revenue comes from the state.

The school board adopted the budget during a three-hour meeting Monday evening that included a presentation about overruns with the high school renovation and a presentation about how the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium is funded.

School board member Gary Wallin questioned why the school board has to approve a budget before union contract negotiations are complete.

Schulte said the school district is required to have a balanced budget approved by the end of August.

The 2007-2008 Oak Harbor School district budget is a $900,000 reduction from last year’s approved budget and a $200,000 decrease from what was actually spent.

In addition to the state money, the school district receives $1.9 million from the local levy and a similar amount from local fees and revenue.

Federal revenue sources provide an estimated $7.4 million in funding, or 17.8 percent of the budget. Of that amount $4.9 million is expected to come from Impact Aid.

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