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Darlington Community School District holds annual meeting & budget hearing
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The Darlington Community School District held its annual meeting and budget hearing on Monday evening, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., with approximately 20 members of the public in attendance.
    According to the proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year, which was approved at the Monday meeting, the Darlington Community School District is looking at a beginning general fund balance of $3,248,825.14 and an anticipated ending general fund balance of $2,081,941.14.
    The general fund balance has been decreasing within the past few years, with an ending general fund balance of $3,635,807.99 for the 2013-2014 school year and an ending general fund balance of $3,248,825.14 for the 2014-2015 school year.
    During the meeting, several members of the public expressed concern with the apparent trending decrease of the general fund balance.
    Former school board member Judy Huntington noted that she didn’t think it was a good idea to spend down the general fund balance. She said when she was on the board they concentrated on specifically maintaining a very healthy general fund balance, in order to prevent the district from having to short term borrow to cover costs.
    Members of the school board noted that the board is very aware of the situation, that the next two years will be very critical for the fund balance, and that the board is taking everything under consideration when they make decisions regarding spending.   
    “I feel very confident that it [short term borrowing] won’t happen this year,” said board president Aaron Wolfe. “We still have a fairly healthy general fund balance, but it is something we do need to look at in the future.”
    Wolfe noted that there have been discussions by the board about possibly going to referendum in the spring of 2016, and that decisions will soon need to be made regarding that.
    The total projected revenues and other financing sources for the 2015-2016 school year were reported as $8,547,126, with total expenditures and other financing uses being at $9,714,010. For the 2014-2015 year revenues came in at $8,674,964.78, while expenses were at $9,061,947.63.
    District administrator, Denise Wellnitz, noted that part of the increase in expenses is due to an increase in salaries and health insurance cost, as well as increases in programming and staffing for the district.
    Board members also noted that while revenues are kept fairly flat through the years, often due to powers outside the control of individual districts, expenses to operate a district only keep going up, and that trying to make everything work out can be a challenge.
    The estimated total tax levy for the 2015-2016 school year is $2,904,841 with a levy mill rate of 0.01015, a 2.71 percent decrease from last year’s levy of $2,985,754 with a mill rate of 0.01045.
    During the annual meeting the board also asked the public for a motion to approve the possible rental of the rooftop of the Darlington Elementary/Middle School for a solar energy LLC project, in addition to the general motion authorizing the school board to rent out district property, both of which were approved.
    Annual student fees, hot lunch fees and salaries for school board president, clerk and board members were approved at the same rates as last year.