PBL's proposed budget shows $24M deficit, but it isn't actually that much

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


PAXTON — Though on paper the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 appears to be $24 million in the red, it is actually quite close to being balanced.

Superintendent Cliff McClure told the school board’s finance committee last Wednesday night that the budget appears to be running the large deficit due to capital projects taking up a good chunk of the budget.

Funding for the Clara Peterson Elementary School addition and renovation project and the PBL High School renovation project come from existing funds — and not through new revenue, McClure noted.

“You’ll see a $24 million deficit,” McClure told the committee, “but that’s only because we aren’t receiving any additional revenue since all the money is in the bank and has been paid through bond funds.”

Excluding the capital projects fund, PBL’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 projects a $154,477 deficit, with $17.1 million in anticipated revenue and $17.2 million in expected expenditures.

Funds projected to run deficits include the education fund (-$58,053), operations and maintenance fund (-$51,666), transportation fund (-$33,238) and fire prevention and safety fund (-$33). Funds expected to finish the year in the black include debt service ($39,213), municipal retirement and Social Security ($35,370), working cash ($83,384) and tort ($15,546).

McClure said the district’s previous budget statement does not accurately reflect PBL’s standings either, since it did not receive an early payment from the Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Office due to assessments reverting to previous amounts after then-assessor Patricia Langland resigned under pressure from residents and county board members in March.

“We got an early (tax payment) that was counted on FY17 and then we got two on FY18, so this year we’ll get all three,” McClure explained. “We didn’t get less, but the timing looked kind of strange. Our audit will show a deficit.”

McClure said the district’s equalized assessed value (EAV) increased while its property tax rate decreased, meaning PBL will receive more money from tax payments versus the previous year once all payments have been made.

Another area that McClure pointed to was the food service cost. McClure said food service revenue increased, which in turn meant that PBL received more federal reimbursements.

In terms of the individual fund balances, McClure said most of the education fund’s expenses are salaries, the amount of which he said would be made more clear once a new three-year collective-bargaining agreement with the PBL Education Association is approved this week.

“Between now and the next meeting, we’ll continue to look at salaries to make sure that those expense schedules are correct,” McClure said. “This will change as I receive better information between August and September.”

The education fund also includes the lease levy for technology purchases, but McClure said no major expenditures would take place in that area.

McClure said his salary is partly funded through the transportation fund, as he also serves as the district’s transportation supervisor. The transportation fund’s revenue includes about $100,000 in state funds.

A total of $15,000 in crisis equipment expenses this year will go toward the purchase of around 20 two-way radios. McClure said bus drivers currently use an outdated analog system, which will be upgraded to a digital system for use by recess supervisors, physical education teachers and athletic directors.

“That would cost about $15,000, and (auditor) Russ (Leigh) said we could either spend that through transportation or crisis management which is reimbursable,” McClure explained.

McClure said he would keep an eye on the budget, making changes and keeping watch over it as he has done in the past.

“We are fiscally conservative and fiscally cautious, and I hope that we continue to be viable in that regard,” McClure said.

School board members voted during last Wednesday’s regularly scheduled monthly board meeting to place the proposed budget on display for public inspection for one month. The budget is expected to be approved by the board during its next meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, which will immediately follow a public hearing on the budget.

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