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Seneca School Board passes balanced budget
Seneca School District

SENECA - After some explanations from the district administrator, the Seneca Area School Board passed a balanced 2019-2020 preliminary budget at their meeting Monday night.

The preliminary balanced budget calls for revenue and expenses of $4,381,972. Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland explained to the board that the preliminary budget is based on actual numbers and projections. With time, the budget will move toward a finalized form with more actual numbers and less projections.

The final version of the budget will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Seneca Area School District scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the school’s band room. Doors on the south side of the building will be open for those who will attend.

Boland told the board that the district will receive $54,000 less in state aid in the coming year, but categorical aid will be higher than the previous year. The savings from a 22 percent decrease in health insurance costs was a big help in offsetting the lower state aid in the coming year.

The district administrator cautioned the board that the numbers in the budget would change. He noted the third Friday count has not yet been taken and that official count could turn out to be a bit different than what is currently being reported. The count will also let the district know how many students have open enrolled in other school districts.

Glancing at the enrollment numbers, Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson said it appeared the district had lost 16 students from the year before. Boland noted the number was preliminary at this point.

In finishing up work on the now audited 2018-19 budget, the board approved moving $387,426 from the general fund to Fund 27 for special education to balance that budget. 

The overall Fund 27 budget is predicted to decrease from $702,000 in the 2018-2019 to $618,000 in 2019-2020. This is expected to occur because some very high-needs children have moved out of the district, according to Boland.

The district administrator also noted there would be a decreased health insurance costs for the special ed staff in the 2019-2020 school year.

The board also approved transferring $23,989 from the general fund to Fund 50 to balance the lunch program budget. Boland noted that the district held the lunch program expenses in check, but decreased revenue support from the state and lower usage combined to create a deficit.

In answer to a question from board member Larry Kelley, Boland reviewed the revenue limit worksheet. Although voters previously approved a referendum allowing the district to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit by a million dollars annually, the district consistently taxes less than that referendum allows. This creates a gap between what is taxed and what the referendum would allow.

In 2018-19, the revenue limit gap was $241,000 and in the coming year the gap is projected to be $208,000. 

Taxes are going up slightly in the preliminary budget, Boland explained. Last year, the mil rate was 10.15 and this year the preliminary budget suggests it will be 10.47. The mil rate represents the amount of taxes to be paid on every $1,000 of assessed property value in the district. So, the school district’s portion of property taxes on property valued at $100,000 would be  $1,047.

The projected $54,000 decrease in state aid is due to a variety of factors both local and statewide, Boland told the board in answer to a question. The number of pupils in the district, the equalized value of property in the district and where that fits with enrollments and property values across the state combine to establish how much state aid the district will receive.  In other business, the Seneca Area School Board:

• learned expenditures last month included $18,000 for a new math curriculum and onsite training for teachers

• learned $3,800 had been spent for drone equipment to be used in student instruction

• learned the final payment was made on the district’s costs of upgrading its electrical system

• learned Homecoming Week would be September 30 to October 5 with the game on Friday, Oct. 4

•  learned the Spanish Club was planning a trip to Costa Rica on June 10-18 with North Crawford and Wauzeka High Schools

• decided to give the school district’s monthly recognition award to the Seneca Sportsman’s Club for their $2,900 donation to the school’s trap team