The Southwestern School Board approved the district's 2011-2012 budget Monday night. The budget and annual meeting was held in the multi-media room at Southwestern High School.
The yearly meeting gives the residents of the school district a chance to review the upcoming budget and ask questions.
The district is facing a decrease in revenues of approximately 8.7 percent over the 2010-2011 budget. The general fund tax levy is estimated at $1,830,740. The district is also seeing an 6.1 percent increase in expenditures. The mill rate is estimated to decrease from $8.06 per $1,000 of equalized property value to $7.95 per $1,000. Dr. Egan predicts the district will be faced with using approximately $600,000 from the fund balance. The Southwestern School District's fund balance is currently $1,182,896.11.
Southwestern School District Superintendent, Dr. James Egan said the district is being affected by Act 10, the budget repair bill. "Any of the changes under Act 10 cannot be implemented in our school district until the current contract expires in 2013," he said.
The district saw a $303,000 cut in state aid and Egan said the school district doesn't have the "toolbox" the governor talks about. "We settled two, two-year contracts in 2008-2010 and another from 2011-2013," Egan said. "At this point, our teachers and staff don't have to pay into their retirement or health insurance due to the contract settled within the school district in 2008. So unless the employees decided to go back in and look at the contract and make some concessions, we will see a direct hit to our budget, which will put a strain on our revenue for the next few years."
Dr. Egan said the district is fortunate to have a healthy fund balance. "Fortunately we have had a few retirements and some of the staff has left the district," he said. "We created a couple of part-time positions to help stretch our dollars and we eliminated a bus route with St. Joe's which will save about $25,000."
"It will be tough in the next two years. We won't be able to do any building projects or major repairs," said Egan.
At the end of next year, Egan said there may be a possibility of looking at a referendum to exceed the revenue caps. In 1993, the revenue cap legislation limited the amount a district could levy for property taxes. Act 10 will reduce what a district can levy under the revenue limit by 5.5 percent. "We are always examining ways to cut our budget, which has been a historical part of our district," Egan said. "We won't just continue to deplete our fund balance. We are trying very hard to hang on to the programs and staff we have. We want to continue to provide small class sizes and we hope to continue to remain in the SAGE program while offering quality curriculum along with the extra curricular activities."
The board will determine the final tax levy rate in October following the certification of equalized values.
• In a special meeting held prior to the annual meeting and budget meeting, the school board approved several hires and resignations. Kristen Riley was hired as a half-time high school band teacher, Nicole Lawrence was hired as the middle school science teacher, Nicole Tukington was hired as a full-time kindergarten teacher, Brenda Welbes was hired as a half-time tech ed/agriculture teacher. Elaine Lethcer was hired as a half-time cook aide and John Costellor was hired as the elementary /middle school principal, effective Sept. 1.
The board accepted the resignation of William Kass, middle school science teacher, Carmen Burkum as elementary/middle school principal and Susan Bennett as a special education teacher aide.