Oak Harbor School Board passes budget

With a 5-1 vote, the Oak Harbor School Board approved the 2023-24 budget.

With a 5-1 vote, the Oak Harbor School Board approved the 2023-24 budget Monday, Aug. 28 — just a few days before the beginning of the fiscal year on Sept. 1.

With the vote, the board is allowing the district to spend up to $115,620,931 this fiscal year.

According to Executive Director of Business Services Vicki Williams, the budget was reduced by $5 million. Many schools in the state have been reducing their budget as well, in part because they can no longer rely on COVID relief funds like the CARES Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

In an interview, Superintendent Michelle Kuss-Cybula explained that the Oak Harbor School District funds, with the help of the Local Education Agency, more than what the state provides — which is based on what the government believes is adequate for staff and student population in each school.

“We provide more services than the state allows,” Kuss-Cybula said.

By eliminating positions through attrition, the district can prioritize services that are most vital to its students, like mental health and special education.

The budget comprises five fund budget categories, according to budget materials.

The general fund — $108,800,643 — is to pay for teacher salaries, office professionals, food services, custodial and maintenance support, utilities, transportation, and central administration costs.

According to Williams, the general fund’s expenditures are higher than the revenues — $107,104,645 — because the district had built up its fund balance when the pandemic started. This fiscal year will be the final year of spending that balance build-up.

The associated students body fund budget — $802,434 — are funds raised by students at each school through fundraisers, ASB cards and student sales, and are used for a variety of student activities.

Again, the expenditures will exceed the revenues, at $759,215. According to Williams, this is because the students had many activities they raised money for that they were unable to do last year. Therefore, the unused money will be spent this year.

The debt service fund budget — $370,375 — is to pay for bonds and bond interests that funded capital improvements. The source of this year’s debt service fund expenditures come from transfers from the transportation vehicle fund to pay the financing of buses purchased over the last five years, according to budget materials.

The capital projects fund budget — $5,300,000 — will fund land acquisition, construction and improvement of buildings, and system upgrades, from computers to plumbing.

Williams said this budget might need an extension. When she developed the budget for capital projects, they did not have a construction management team yet. Additionally, the district was notified late this month that it was awarded two grants to install solar panels at Broadview View Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary, and those grants — $1 million for each school — are not included in the current budget.

“The budget I created was my best guess,” she said in an interview. She believes the district will spend more than she estimated.

The transportation vehicle fund budget — $347,479 — is dedicated to purchasing and repairing school buses.

During the meeting Monday, Board Member Bob Hallahan asked if the district could cancel the purchase of some buses that are expected for December or January. Williams explained that wasn’t possible because they already issued the purchase order, approved from the 2022-23 budget, and the delivery has been delayed.

Soon, the district will have to choose more vehicles to purchase, which will be part of the 2023-24 budget.

At the vote, Hallahan voted against approving the budget as he worries the buses, which he believes should be electric, would only contribute to the issue of climate change.

“I want us to take responsibility for the trade offs that are involved in making these purchases,” Hallahan said. “I want us to take responsibility and make hard choices instead of putting them on future people.”