Source: Sherman Publications

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Brandon School Board debates budget at 11th hour

by Susan Bromley

June 29, 2011

By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- The state requires that school districts have a budget for the next school year in place by July 1 or shut down. The school board here received a 2011-12 budget to review at 5:26 p.m., June 28 and at a special meeting June 29, a motion to pass the budget failed 2-2.

Greg Allar and Debbie Brady voted yes. Rob Privette and LeAnne Schmidt voted no. Four yes votes, a majority of the board, is required to pass any motion. Debbie Schummer, Kevin McClellan and Luke Frye were absent.

After the failed motion, boardmembers agreed to meet again at 2 p.m., June 30 in a renewed effort to pass the budget and requested that Steve Lenar, executive director of fiscal affairs, bring back a budget that met with their goal of having a 7 percent fund balance as opposed to the budget he originally presented that had a fund balance of only 5.61 percent.

The failed budget had a projected operating deficit of $991,104, which would have been made up from the fund balance, reducing the rainy day fund to $1,687,244, or 5.61 percent.

"The budget is still a good budget," said Lenar in addressing the board during the public hearing that preceded the special meeting and vote. "While the percentage is lower than we would like to see, we need you to approve this. The board wants a stronger fund balance, but we need the budget in place or we shut the doors in July... We can regroup and increase the fund balance and come back and deal with it in the next four to six weeks."

"We never anticipated that you expected a 7 percent fund balance," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "Steve said it could be as low as 5 percent.What we would bring back July 18 (to achieve a 7 percent fund balance) would be more accurate than what we'd have in 24 hours."

Privette and Schmidt were not persuaded.

Lenar, whose services are shared between Brandon and the Holly School District, acknowledged the budget was "put together at the 11th hour."

"The delay in timing is because of me splitting duties," he said. "Both districts had ongoing negotiations and I was a chief negotiator and the rest of the job doesn't get done. We just ran out of time."

Lenar said he also didn't realize that a 7 percent fund balance was the intended target.

"This budget is close to what I thought it would be, using broad assumptions," he noted. "In earlier estimates I talked about using $700,000 from the fund balance versus $991,000. It's a 1 percent difference. It's a large amount of money, but close percentage wise. We'll get it to the number the board needs."

The Citizen went to press before the June 30 board meeting. Check for details.