At the June 20 Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education meeting, board members approved a $51.9 million preliminary budget for the 2106-17 school year.
The Democrat recently spoke to Dr. Harriet Wolfe, chief financial officer for the district, and Superintendent Brad Pollitt for an explanation of the budget.
“We have planned for our budget to be balanced, to maintain our reserves at 15 percent and top base our planning on the educational goals of the district,” Wolfe said. “My job is to maximize the taxpayers’ dollars because we don’t want the students in our district to do without.
‘I tend to be very conservative in my estimates when I approach the budget,” she added. “We are constantly forecasting to be better prepared for the future of the district and are very fortunate that the citizens of Sedalia pay their taxes and we have been blessed in the last five years with a number of very generous donors to the district and a school foundation that is very active.”
The district relies primarily state and local tax dollars as its source of revenue. State funds provide 47 percent of revenue for the district while local tax dollars contribute an additional 41 percent to the budget. The remaining 12 percent of the budget comes from the county, which contributes 2 percent, and 10 percent is federal money.
The total project revenue for the district is $50,793,008.10.
“I think a lot of citizens are unaware of just how little of our budget comes from federal dollars,” Wolfe said. “It’s an important part and we would hate to do without it but it isn’t the majority of our funding.
“One thing we have been able to take advantage of has been the refunding of our debt obligations,” she added. “By doing that we have saved the taxpayers approximately $1 million in interest rates over the length of the debt load and we have been able to shorten some of the terms.”
Wolfe explained that those funds are classified as Fund Four, or funds used for capital projects.
Fund One is used for daily operating expenses, while Fund Two is used to provided teacher wages. Fund Three is for general obligation bonds for levy or construction purposes, but Sedalia 200 has not sold any of these bonds since the 1980s, Wolfe said.
“In the fall of 2015 we began a $4.7 million building project to add a ninth grade wing and a new auxiliary gym to the high school,” Wolfe said. “We still have $2.5 million left to complete the building phase and to equip the classrooms.
“We will spend down a portion of our reserves to pay that cost,” she added. “As with the stadium project, this addition came at no additional cost to the taxpayers through a ballot measure asking for a levy increase.”
The primary reason for the addition is the district’s expanding enrollment. Sedalia 200 has seen a steady increase in its student enrollment over recent years and is estimating 5,000 students for the upcoming year.
With increased enrollment, the district is also facing increased operating expenses.
“The state indicated that this will be the second year to fully fund the Foundation Formula,” Wolfe said. “Senate Bill 586 set a 5 percent cap on their state adequacy target which, in effect, will negatively affect the revenue the district receives in the future.
“In order for the state to fund SB 586, the 2016-17 percentage thresholds were downwardly adjusted for Free/Reduced lunch, Special Education and English Language Learners (ELL), which in turn affects the Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) and has resulted in a slight loss of WADA to the district,” she added. “The goal of the state was to try to make sure that it is adequate and equitable across the state.”
The board approved a projected $51,989,712.21 in expenditures.
“By far our largest expenditure is student support, which includes teacher salaries and benefits, books and supplies, special education and Federal Title Programs,” Wolfe explained. “That is 72.22 percent of the expenditures.
“As the district’s enrollment increases we have to add teachers and classrooms,” she added. “For the 2016-17 year, because of increased numbers in enrollment it was necessary to add 25 staff members.”
Sedalia 200 pays 100 percent of the insurance benefits for each staff member.
This year the board added an additional $250 to the base salary for district teachers, setting it at $34,750, and additionally adjusted the upper end of the salary schedule.
“We were extremely fortunate that were we able to pass this budget and still provide an increase to staff salaries,” Wolfe said. “When cuts have to be made unfortunately one of the only places we can look is staff.”
The remaining 27.78 percent is used for capital fund payments (10.45 percent), building maintenance (10.47 percent), administration (6.61) percent and board of education expenses (0.25 percent).
“With all we do we try to maximize those taxpayer dollars,” Wolfe said. “At times it seems we may be spending a large portion on the front end but the saving can be unbelievable on the back end.
“The geothermal heating and cooling systems we have utilized are a perfect example of that,” she added. “We always try to do it right the first time, keeping in mind that our purpose in all we do is to better prepare our students.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484