Deficit spending continues in St. Louis Schools new budget

Wrapping up the 2017-18 fiscal year in St. Louis Schools, the school board approved a final amended budget on June 18, with $378,135 in deficit spending.

Total revenue for fiscal year 2017-18, which ends today (June 30), was about $10.1 million, but the district spent about $10.5 million, more than $400,000 than was originally budgeted.

The district’s fund balance, or savings account, fell from about $1.5 million to $1.1 million.

Although the district’s total revenue for the fiscal year, originally estimated at $9.9 million, ultimately came in at $10.1 million, it was exceeded by spending.

In case you were wondering how the revenue breaks down, about $1 million comes from property taxes, while $8.3 million comes from state government.

2018-19 budget

The school board also approved a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins tomorrow (July 1).

The district expects to get slightly more than $1 million through an 18-mill property tax levy, $8.3 million from state government and $281,000 from federal government.

Total expected revenue of about $10.1 million is down $21,000 from the previous year. Spending has been cut by about $212,000, but Stacey Haag of the Gratiot Isabella Intermediate School District, still predicts a shortfall of $191,000.

That would bring the district’s fund balance (or savings account) down to $896,000, or 8.7 percent of expenditures.

Haag said “the most compelling answer” for the fund balance’s decline over the years is falling enrollment. “In the last four years we’ve seen almost a loss of 84 kids when we look at our student count. This is substantial for a district our size, and we just continue to see loss every year in our enrollment. For our 2018-19 budget we have estimated a loss of 20 students, which means a loss of approximately $157,420 in revenues for our district. We always hope that we won’t see that loss but this is the trend.”

Superintendent Kristi Teall noted that 76 students just graduated, but only 60 new kindergartners are expected to enroll by September.

“Enrollment is dropping everywhere and has been for a while now,” she said. “We are not losing kids to school of choice; there are just fewer coming into the district. Unfortunately this is the trend we are being faced with. We adjust staffing anytime we can. We also added two positions this year. We are adding two Social Emotional Learning teachers to our elementary buildings. If we had not added these positions, our fund balance would have been around 10 percent.  We made the decision to put the needs of our students and our staff first.”

Historically, the fund balance has been lower. In 2009-10 it was 4.6 percent and was under 10 percent in six of the last 11 fiscal years. The high water mark during that period was 2016-17 at 14.8 percent.

The school district collects property taxes at the rate of 18 mills but levies an additional 8 mills to pay off bond issues approved by voters in September 1994, September 2001, and May 2014. The debt service payments end in  2020, 2024 and 2039.


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