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School district ends year with budget surplus

The Weyauwega-Fremont School District expected a 2009-10 budget shortfall but ended with a surplus.

The district’s fiscal year ended June 30, and its accounts registered a surplus of $445,000.

When the budget was adopted last October following the district’s annual meeting, it was approved with the understanding that there could be a shortfall up to $387,000, District Administrator F. James Harlan said.

“That was based on information available in October of last year,” he said. “Between October and June 30, some things happened.”

One thing was that health and dental claims in the district’s self-funded health insurance program were $140,000 below the district’s initial projections, Harlan said.

In addition, college credit reimbursement was about $18,000 lower than budgeted and not all staff participated to the maximum in the annuity match benefit. The budget assumed all eligible staff would. That resulted in another $10,000 in savings.

Harlan said the district also experienced savings in utility and fuel costs and saved more than $10,000 by installing a new phone system.

Funds from the federal recovery act were used for special education, decreasing the amount needed locally for that budget, he said.

Harlan also said that open enrollment expenses were lower than anticipated – mostly due to four open enrolled out students dropping classes with alternate districts mid year and less students participating in Youth Options than anticipated.

“The reason there was no shortfall was because expenses were under the original projections,” he said.

Of the approximately $445,000 surplus, there are several expenses that were accounted for as part of the previous fiscal year but could not be reported as part of that budget, Harlan said.

Those include about $246,000 related to teacher and support staff contracts, $68,000 for new textbooks and about $30,000 for technology, he said.

Teacher and support staff contracts have yet to be settled. Textbooks were ordered last fiscal year, and the plan was to spend the approximately $68,000 on them during that fiscal year.

However, because they have not yet arrived, the new textbooks will be paid for in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Harlan said.

The surplus the district ended with for its 2009-2010 fiscal year was – by law – swept into the district’s Fund 10 balance.

He said subtracting those three items from the surplus means the net impact of the whole year will be about $100,000 in the positive for a $10 million budget.

“In a very difficult year, the district was able to manage its finances in a way that turned a projected deficit into a net surplus,” Harlan said. “If one were to look at it the last six years, that’s been our story here. We have tried to stay ahead of the challenges.”

The district’s 2010-11 budget will be adopted on Monday, Oct. 25.

While some school districts hold their annual meetings earlier, Harlan said that for the last 10 years, the W-F School District has held to its present time table.

Holding the district’s annual meeting in October allows the district to know the number of students it has (that count is taken on the third Friday in September), amount of state aid expected to receive (generally known around Oct. 15) and what the district’s property valuation is.

“Between June 30 and the October meeting, the district operates on an interim – based upon an estimated budget until the budget is actually finalized,” he said.

Harlan is presently projecting a shortfall in revenue of about $400,000 for the 2010-11 budget and said that number could be altered to some extent based on the number of students the district has and whether it receives more or less state aid.

“The district has made excellent progress financially and is well positioned to meet the immediate challenges it will face during the next fiscal year,” he said. “Longer term, the issue of declining enrollments will be a challenge. The reason we’ve been able to generate positive results in a declining enrollment market is because we’ve been proactive about pairing our staff reductions with our enrollment reductions.”

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