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More revenue found in budget amendment

March 07, 2012 - In her first crack at Clarkston Schools' budget, new business director Mary Beth Rogers found the shortfall to be less than half what was expected.

"Now we know the full federal allocation," said Rogers, executive director of business services.

Federal funding, mostly for at-risk student programs, was $335,474 more than expected. State funding was also more than expected, $505,912.

The district also spent $715,242 less than was budgeted, she said.

Spending for Central Services was $450,307 less than originally budgeted, and Operations and Maintenance was $250,000 less.

Clarkston School Board approved the second-quarter amended budget unanimously, Feb. 27. According to the budget, Clarkston Community Schools collected $74.76 million in revenue, with spending at $76.20 million. The shortfall will come from the district's $9.83 million fund balance. That will leave a $8.48 million fund balance, 11 percent of the budget.

"That's about where we want it for cash flow purposes," she said.

Savings let the district avoid borrowing between July and October, when state funding stops, makes the district look better to bond rating agencies, and serves as a rainy-day fund, she said.

Also, the district's total bond debt is $138 million, with payments spread over the next 18 years. Payments are twice a year, funded by 7 mills residential property tax. The November, interest payment was $3.2 million. In May, an interest and principal will be $13.8 million.

At the end of the 18 years, interest paid on the $138 million principal will be about $50 million.

The School Board requires a balanced budget. To achieve that, the district must account for a 2.73 percent, $1.1 million increase in retirement costs to the state, property tax revenue falling by $1.7 million, reductions in state funding for half-day Kindergarten of about $300 per student, and a student count loss of 97 students from 2010-2011.

"We're looking at a $3 million loss in revenue and we haven't even done anything yet," Rogers said. "We have to look at everything, cost reductions, efficiencies in the district, hopefully alternative revenue enhancement."

Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed state budget keeps per-pupil funding flat – "2005 foundation allowance with 2012 expenses," Rogers said.

Administration and the School Board will consider cuts in the next couple months, she said.

Rogers joined the district after the retirement of Bruce Beamer in January.

As the new business director, her goals include new formats for budget reports.

"More transparency for people to see the ins and outs, increases and decreases between the first and second quarter," she said.

She also wants to tighten up the quarterly budget amendments, so they more closely match actual revenues and spending.

"I'll look at trends, actuals over the last few year, budget assumptions – a combination of different ways," she said. "If they don't match, then I'll ask why not, ask questions."

Rogers has 13 years of experience as finance director, and also worked as a budget analyst for Central Michigan University. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Central Michigan University and a Master's degree in Education Leadership.

The school board will receive the final budget amendment in June, then almost immediately receive the proposed original budget for 2012-2013.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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