2017-05-17 / Front Page

School budget approved for publication; public budget hearing is May 23

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board approved their proposed Fiscal Year 2018 total budget of $27,689,734 for publication at their Monday, May 8 meeting.

The school budget has an estimated general current expense fund revenue of $23,316,967 and a $4,372,767 special revenue fund.

Public hearing

A public hearing on the school budget is scheduled at the Tuesday, May 23 regular school board meeting which will be held at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Springs High School. The school board will vote to formally adopt the budget at the meeting after the public hearing. The meeting also includes spring student awards.

Revenue decrease

Last year’s estimated revenue was $27,891,690, which was $201,954 higher than this year, according to School Treasurer Ann Bell. Bell said that revenue for the general current expense fund was down $575,215 without the unfunded retirement liability entered and total projected revenue dropped $707,908.

The school system must include the $2,532,168 unfunded retirement liability on their books as a paper entry, Bell said. No money changes hands between the state and the school district. The total budget without the unfunded retirement liability is actually $25,157,566, she noted.

State aid down

State aid is estimated to drop in the coming year by $485,228. Basic state aid dropped $353,454 from decreased enrollment and PEIA and retirement allocations also declined a combined $131,774.

Projected special revenue decreased $132,693 from last year and expected revenue from Medicaid reimbursements declined $175,000.

Seven fulltime professional personnel positions and five service personnel positions were eliminated at the end of the 2016-2017 employment term. Employment contracts of 54 professional and service personnel were cut by four to six days for the coming fiscal year, due to the projected drop in state aid.

The general current expense fund revenue includes a projected $4,903,512 in regular school levy property taxes, $4,147,298 in special levy taxes, $812,500 in prior year taxes, $12,857,645 in total state aid, $100,000 in Medicaid reimbursements and a $300,000 carryover fund balance, Bell said. Last year’s carryover fund balance was $250,000. Total estimated property tax revenue is up $36,928.

Expenditure categories include operations and maintenance, student transportation, school administration, student support services and central office administration.

The largest chunk of the budget — $19,197,619, or 82.3% of it —will go toward personnel salaries that include substitute costs, supplemental salaries for coaches, afterschool tutors and extracurricular duties along with benefits that include health insurance, retirement benefits, Social Security, Medicare and dental/ vision insurance.

Bell said that school systems are required to spend at least 80% of their budget on salaries and benefits.

The $4,372,767 special revenue fund includes Title 1 and Title 2 funding, Step 7 instructional improvement monies, Step 7b technology funding and funding for special education, child nutrition, bus replacement, career technical education, alternative education and the 21st Century Learning grant for the middle school and high school afterschool program.

Special levy

The total estimated revenue of the special levy for Fiscal Year 2018 is $4,147,298 -- $16,920 more than last fiscal year’s estimated special levy revenue. Any additional special levy monies generated are spread between the categories specified in the levy order.

The special levy call designates $1,904,637 for employee salary supplements, $1,137,438 in positions/support for critical educational programs, $500,000 for facilities maintenance, $400,000 for instructional materials and supplies and $125,000 for technology.

Major expenditures

Major proposed general current expense fund expenditures for the Fiscal Year 2018 are $9,334,674 for professional salaries, $2,328,249 for service personnel salaries, the $2,532,168 unfunded retirement liability, $1,431,675 for health/life insurance premiums, $955,541 for Social Security matching, a total of $941,877 for retirement plans, $728,540 for electricity and $455,428 for the retiree health benefit trust.

Other large expenses include $230,530 for professional substitutes, $226,138 for non-technical repair/maintenance service, $187,237 for general supplies, $183,078 for textbooks, $180,271 for other professional services, $179,926 for diesel vehicle fuel, $177,750 for service personnel substitutes, $103,000 for data communication services and a $100,708 QZAB loan payment and lease purchase payment.

Decreases and increases

Professional salaries decreased $186,226 from last year and service personnel salaries declined $133,001 due to personnel cuts. Professional contracted services decreased by $50,000 due to the hiring of a speech pathologist as an employee, Bell said.

Retiree premiums are going up and dental insurance had increased, she said. They had to add flood liability insurance for the Building C project since a tiny corner of the building is in the flood plain.

Workers’ compensation costs have dropped and had been used less in the past couple years, Bell said. Child nutrition revenue is down almost $80,000 but costs are being funded more through federal reimbursements. The program is thriving since participation is up and more kids are eating breakfast.

Budget uncertainties

The West Virginia Legislature is in special session, but has still not adopted a state budget. Any changes or that the West Virginia State Legislature makes to school revenue during its special session would have to be made later as budget adjustments once the school board adopts the budget at its May 23 meeting.

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Construction of a barrier

Construction of a barrier for Building C portion that is in flood plain might prove cheaper than having to carry additional insurance and avoid potential damage that would take place in event of flooding .