The school board unanimously approved its 2011-2012 budget Monday night.
The final spending plan shows the district in a better financial position than earlier projections estimated. This is because new contracts for teachers and physical plant staff include lower salaries and benefits than Associate Superintendent Donald Goers had included in the preliminary budgets. It also reduces the contingency funds included in the earlier versions of the budget.
The final budget calls for $91.6 million in expenses, down from $92.7 in the tentative budget that was the subject of a public hearing in July. More than 80 percent of the expense budget goes to salaries and benefits. Budget revenues increased by $153,000, all from changes in expected state aid, Goers said. State aid numbers changed in part because the funding is more than they had expected, and in part because some of the money delayed from last year is expected for this year.
The plan now calls for $92.9 million in revenue.
Overall, the plan calls for spending about 2.13 percent more than it planned to spend in last year’s budget, and about 5.55 percent more than it actually spent last year.
Contracts with the teachers and maintenance staff unions made it possible to increase the anticipated budget surplus to $1.2 million, Goers said.
School board member Patrick O’Donoghue said that he would like to see the district do more to hold the line on spending. The increases in teacher salaries approved as part of a two-year contract in August will exceed the inflation rate, O’Donoghue said. He wants the administration to cut spending in other areas to keep the total increase in spending at the inflation rate or less.
“I think we owe it to people who are struggling to pay their tax bills not to spend any more,” O’Donohue said.
The bulk of the district’s revenue – 92 percent – comes from property taxes, Goers said.
Other board members said it would be all but impossible not to increase spending more than the rate of inflation, especially with a growing number of students.
Board member Alan Dolinko said the district probably will have to spend more on capital projects and expenditures in coming years because spending cuts in the last two years have reduced the amount of maintenance the district has done.
“Those things have a way of sneaking up on you,” he said.
Fortunately, Goers said, the new contracts reduce projected spending for the foreseeable future. This means early projects for next year’s budget show a deficit of about $300,000, as opposed to a deficit of more than $1 million in previous projections.
The smaller deficit is within the amount of contingency funds usually included in the budget, Goers said, so it looks likely that next year's budget will be balanced.
The board is required by the state to approve a budget by Sept. 30.