EVANSTON — The Uinta County School District No. 1 board of trustees approved the 2017-18 budget at the budget hearing on Wednesday night, reflecting months of reduced enrollment, slipping mill levy values and state budget cuts.
The meeting was sparsely attended, but with the help of technology, two of the board members (Jami Brackin and David Bennett) participated via speakerphone. The board zipped through a few routine items before recessing into the budget hearing.
CFO John Williams started with the 2016-2017 amendments. The general fund has a net positive change of $497,541. This is due to higher revenues in everything except from county sources, bringing the total to about $1.6 million more than expected.
The instruction expenditures were about $150,000 less than expected, although extra support services expenses brought the total expenditures about $1.3 million more than the school district budgeted for. Overall, the school district had anticipated a positive balance increase of $744,256 but actually saw $497,541.
Williams did note that UCSD No. 1 will receive a $900,000 tax shortfall grant in October from the state to cover unpaid money from Ryckman Creek and Merit Energy. The school district has received higher interest rate on savings investments than anticipated.
The board approved the amendments, and Williams next proceeded to propose a mill levy request of 28.7 mills. Of those, 25 would go to unified districts, 0.5 to BOCES, 2 to the voter-approved BOCES mill levy, .2 to BOCES Region V and 1 to the Evanston Paris and Recreation Department.
In response to a question from trustee Kay Fackrell, Superintendent Ryan Thomas said it’s possible to ask for more for recreation if it goes through the voters first.
The board approved the mill levy request before Williams presented the 2017-2018 budget as a whole. He likened the budget to a cake with many ingredients.
He started by pointing out that the General Fund gets about 76 percent of its revenues from state sources and 24 percent from local sources ($31.59 million and $9.75 million, respectively); it used to be balanced differently when assessed valuations were better.
“When I first came into this community, that was probably 55 percent,” Williams said.
His key point overall was that the “cake” is smaller than it usually is, which can be partially attributed to fewer students and cuts in state funding. Last year, UCSD No. 1 was funded for an average daily membership (ADM) of 2,851 students, but on a three-year rolling average, this year UCSD No. 1 will be funded for 2,806. This is better for the schools than their actual enrollment last year, which was down 66.8 ADM as opposed to the funding loss of 45 ADM. Furthermore, the instructional facilitator grant has been cut 10 percent and, along with Bridges, has been rolled into the state’s block grant. Finally, revenues have declined as well.
All of this led to 13 certified FTE positions and 10 support FTEs cut through attrition and shifting, as well as increased employee copays for health insurance and at least 5 percent cuts in operating expenses.
Williams next talked about how the money is spent, pointing to three different charts with different focuses.
The first, “Major Object Budgets,” detailed what the school district plans to spend this year. Salaries are the largest single category, taking 58 percent of the budget (or $23.38 million); next is benefits at 28 percent or $11.2 million. Services, supplies and equipment are the next chunks at 5 percent, 7 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
The second chart, “Function Budget,” showed how money is funneled to various departments and services. Regular instruction gets 39 percent, or $15.7 million; special instruction 15 percent or $6 million; and maintenance, utilities and custodians 12 percent or $4.6 million.
Other areas include vocational education (2 percent); transportation (5 percent after it also received cuts); administration, board and technology (6 percent); athletics and student services (9 percent); bus, warehouse and print shop (2 percent), curriculum, instructional services and media (5 percent); and principal and office (5 percent).
The final chart, “Department Budget,” went into detail about how funds go to schools and all the departments. Special services get the largest chunk of this at $113 million, although that is still fully funded by the state. UCSD No. 1 spends most of its school-specific budget on Evanston High School at 13 percent, (2 percent is spent on Horizon High School), the two middle schools at 7 percent each (within $200 of each other), Uinta Meadows Elementary at 8 percent, Clark Elementary at 5 percent, North Elementary at 7 percent and Aspen Elementary at 5 percent. Transportation also takes 6 percent, making the transportation expenses approximately equal to the expenses associated with an elementary or middle school.
All of the budget documents and Williams’ PowerPoint presentation are available under the Board documents on www.uinta1.com.
Before finishing his presentation, Williams thanked everyone who gave input on the budget, crediting people throughout the district for “countless hours” of work.
The board approved the budget then, at 7:26 p.m., reconvened into regular session. They discussed some proposed excess items, including a food service vehicle and a piano at Aspen Elementary, but deferred action until the next board meeting.
During the round table, Fackrell said the Evanston Middle School grounds look good. Thomas put in that the roof work is going well and that the project looks to be done mid-August.
“They’re a lot easier [and] better to deal with,” Thomas said of the workers. “These individuals are honest; they’ll talk to you. It’s been enjoyable for me.”
He added that the roof work can be seen from the interstate, and the roof crews will cover all the leaking connections and put together a better transition.
The UME roof is also going well, although some paving projects around the school district likely won’t be done before school starts, including at the bus barn parking lot, Circle Drive and Red Devil Drive.
At the end of the round table, Thomas said that the next board meeting will be streamed live as well as being open to the public.
The brief but busy meeting adjourned at 7:34 p.m.