(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
SUSTAINABILITY: General Fund for the district is projected to regrow in future…
Before the regularly scheduled school board meeting on July 17, Chewelah School District Superintendent Rich McFarland gave a presentation on the budget, lining out predictions and numbers for the next few years.
Due to budget issues this year, the general fund balance will dip below the school policy of seven percent of the total budget, McFarland said. The expected ending balance for 2018-2019 is roughly $500,000.
The Board policy of seven percent of the budget is more around $797,720 for the current year.
This is so the district doesn’t have to borrow money if the state is slow in paying out money due to them. Borrowing money would mean the district would have to pay interest.
McFarland outlined the cuts including two full-time teacher positions and some classified staff positions the district made this year.
Other trends in the school district included a flattening out of enrollment. After drops from over 840 kids in 2013-2014 in the school district to roughly 750 in three years, the district saw some growth in the last two years, but expects a slow decrease in the next three years.
For the budget, special education funding is increasing but so are costs, with 13.41 percent of the student body receiving some sort of special education.
McFarland said that the district will continue to limit spending in 2019-2020, but the district will also see an increase in their insurance costs by eight percent and salary increases for certified instructors, not yet negotiated, but salary steps alone amount to 2.86 to 2.9 percent. Certificated staff will begin negotiations with the District in August. Classified staff will see salary step increases between 1.45 and 1.54 percent. Classified staff have a settled agreement for 2019-20 with an additional 0.5 percent increase on the overall salary schedule on top of step increases.
“Salaries are the bulk of our budget,” McFarland said. “They make up 82 percent of the budget. When purchased services are added in, it is over 85 percent”
After salary negotiations last year, certified staff realized almost an 18 percent increase in their wages, while classified staff saw a 14 percent increase.
There are also new requirements to provide additional education to paraeducators that will cost the district two days of additional pay for training.
In 2018, the state legislature also approved SEBB (School Employees Benefit Board) which is a staff insurance requirement that will add $267,000 to the expense column.
“Even if the teacher or classified staff member doesn’t want the SEBB benefits, that money will goes to the state,” McFarland said. “It doesn’t stay here.”
The 2019-20 General Fund budget assumes an increase in fund balance of $146,861, and McFarland is requesting an appropriation of $11,136, 292.
The ending fund balance estimate for 2019-2020 is $646,861.This would continue to grow to $780,656 according to projections by McFarland, rebuilding that seven percent requirement. Budgets would continue to increase gradually, as would revenues and expenses. The 2020-21 school year would see an ending balance of over $68,000, 2021-22 would see an excess of $42,000 and 2022-23 would see $22,000 left over to regrow the general fund balance.
But both the board and McFarland admitted it was tough to project even a few years in the future due to the nature of McCleary and enrollments.
During the regular school board meeting, McFarland and the board honored Dianne Kennedy for her 40 years of dedicated service teaching in the school district. They also approved the hire of Zachary Levchenko as the new technology director, approved the resignation of Tom Skok as the head softball coach and also approved the resignation of Sheena Rancourt as the after school drama coach and assistant cross country coach.
The district also hired Christine Chalmers as an elementary teacher and Chelsi Boswell as a math teacher.
Barry Warren resigned to take a position as a principal and Cody Peone resigned from his CTE position.
McFarland reported that the school district’s transportation department got an explementary inspection by the state.
“We came out with flying colors on our buses,” McFarland said.
He also added that the facilities committee has identified things that the school district would like to tackle with bond, levy or grant money. Those concerns include intercom and security systems at the school, and upgrading outdated telephone systems.
“There is some new technology out there to make our schools much more safe and maintain that environment for our kids,” McFarland said.
Kevin Herda also spoke during the meeting, re-iterating the need to repass the bond and levy for the school district to maintain what the community is giving to the schools now so they can deal with those vital needs.
The school board approved the leasing of a new mower for the maintenance of school grounds. McFarland said it was more cost effective to lease, than to buy and hope to maintain before a need arose to buy another one.
“They really beat those machines up with as much as they do with them,” he said.
The school board also approved new math curriculum for students in the middle level and advanced math classes. Erin Dell gave a presentation listing the new curriculum and how it scored well in student comprehension. This should help raise the low math test scores in the Chewelah School District, she said.
The next Chewelah School Board meeting will be on August 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the School District Office.