By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
The City Schools District 80 Board of Education on Saturday approved the Fiscal Year 2014 Head Start Grant.
The grant increased by $7,000 to $448,000, said District 80 Superintendent Mike Green.
“Head Start is a huge program with three and four year olds and their parents,” Green said.
Aletta Lawrence, District 80 assistant superintendent, said the funding for Head Start training and technology had remained at the same level for several years.
“That didn’t help us because our salaries go up every year,” she said.
During the monthly report on Head Start, Lawrence said the program’s enrollment is currently full with 273 students and a waiting list.
She said Head Start teachers and administration are working to integrate new regulations into the program. A half-day in service day was held for Head Start instructors in January, Lawrence said.
The District 80 Board of Education also voted to ratify and approve two contracts out of the 17 for the Zadok Casey Middle School construction and renovation project.
After the board’s short regular meeting, they adjourned and picked back up with the topics of the annual board retreat.
Board members worked to predict the future while discussing the financial data of the district.
Green said this fiscal year, salary funding decreased by about $200,000 because two senior administrators moved on.
He said there are five certified staff and as many as five classified staff members retiring at the end of 2014, where additional savings may be realized. Based on an assumption of no increase in teachers through FY2016, the teacher salary line item should only increase by about $300,000, Green said.
Board member Craig Hedin said salaries are the district’s biggest expense, and asked whether the line item included their insurance. He said budget planning for the future should include all expenses in order to provide an accurate financial “snapshot.”
Green said some things are hard to predict, such as when a teacher will decide to pursue a master’s program or other continuing education that indicates them moving a step on the teacher or administration salary schedule.
The board examined a five-year comparison of the district’s finances, including past information for revenue and expenses.
Green said the biggest financial challenge for the district has been decreasing funding from the state in several areas, including general state aid, transportation and special education funding.
“The state continues to decrease the money they give us,” he said. “This year in the transportation fund, we were reimbursed at 79 percent, and we had it in the budget as 67 percent. For general state aid in FY11, the state paid 100 percent; in FY12, they paid 95 percent, which was a loss of $291,000. This year, they paid 89 percent, which was a loss of $600,000.”
Green added that next fiscal year, it is rumored the state will only fund 80 percent of general state aid to district, which he said would be “a huge loss.”
Hedin encouraged the board to continue to anticipate financial issues two and three years in advance.
“We can’t just look at a one-year snapshot,” he said.
Green said he was very happy to have a balanced budget this year.
“I am optimistic we won’t have to look at dipping into any reserves,” he said. “But with general state aid, we might have a deficit in the budget next year.”
Hedin said District 80 has wonderful teachers and programs, adding that any reduction to those would have a negative impact on the level of education at the district.
“We have to think about the next two to three years, get the crystal ball out and keep going after those grants,” he said.