With only a few days remaining before Bedford school officials are scheduled to adopt next year’s budget, administrators are continue to work at gaining a clearer picture of next year’s fiscal landscape.
Bedford school officials unveiled a revised budget proposal of $118,921,000 during their Mar. 30 school board meeting. This budget, which is $23,295 lower than the spending plan that was proposed earlier this month, represents a 2.09 percent increase over this year’s budget and a 1.83 percent increase over the current tax levy.
The bulk of the reductions in the proposal came from the reshuffling of staff and programs. Overall, about $171,545 more cuts were found. However, those cuts were somewhat offset by inclusion of $148,250 reductions or add-ons to the budget.
The school board is scheduled to adopt a budget proposal on April 6.
“We have had some people on the agenda over the last few weeks that have made the decision to retire,” said Mark Betz, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.
Betz said those retirements resulted in about $88,500 in savings for the district. Another $62,000 in savings were found by renegotiating out-of-district slots for special education placements. Educational development funding received another $21,000 in cuts.
The bulk of the budget restorations stem from an administrator’s decision to return $80,000 to the alternative high school program. That money will be used to fund a .2 full-time equivalent for certified staff member, 1 full-time equivalent classified staff person and other operational costs.
Initially, the district had proposed housing its ACES and Hillside programs under one roof. ACES, which stands for Academic Community for Educational Success, is an alternative high school that focuses on experiential learning. Hillside is an alternative high school programs that caters to students of various emotional and learning needs.
But Betz said it isn’t feasible to move ahead with the consolidation of the two programs and all the cuts it involved.
“We’re going to take a longer look at operations from two-year period,” Betz said of the ACES and Hillside programs.
Other additions to the budget include $21,000 for professional development tracking software that will be used to help the district conform to the state’s new teacher evaluation guidelines, $26,000 for a high school aide position and $21,250 for a high school science research position.
Tax levy reduction
The school board is still trying to figure out what reserve funds it will use to in order to move forward with its plans to allocate $4.4 million in reserves and revenues toward lowering the tax levy.
Earlier this month, district officials believed they’d have $3.6 million in fund balance available to allocate to the fund balance. The additional $800,000 would be taken from the district’s other reserves.
However, the fund balance figure is now projected to be closer to $3.4 million.
“Revenue is estimated to be up a bit and expenditures, mostly from increased health claims costs, are higher,” Betz said.
The current tax levy is projected to be a little more than $105 million, but that number assumes that $4.4 million will be used to keep the levy lower.
Betz said that he would firm up those numbers during the next few weeks.
Contingency budget reviewed
Betz also gave a glimpse of what the district’s contingency budget would look like if district residents voted down the current proposal during the May 17 budget vote.
Districts must use a contingency budget if their proposals are defeated two times by a public vote. The budget caps spending by 4 percent or 120 percent of the consumer price index. The lower of the two figures is used as the cap. Districts are also prohibited from from having a contingency budget that is more than a proposal that was just defeated by the public.
Betz said the district’s contingency budget would be about $118,403,681, or 1.65 percent more than this year’s budget.
Items that would be cut if the district were forced to use a contingency budget include the community’s usage of school buildings; equipment purchases not related health and safety; certain salary increases; and capital improvements.