The Gering Public Schools Board considered a spending plan approaching $40 million, but without any property tax increases at its annual budget hearing this week.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-23 is $36.1 million with a mandatory cash reserve of $1.7 million, or $37.8 million in total. The required cash reserve is dictated by the state.
The panel will consider the approval of the annual framework at a special meeting on Tuesday, September 27 at noon in the central office building.
Stacy Rodriguez, director of business and finance at GPS, told the Star-Herald that the motto “what’s best for students” guided decision-making on broad financial lines.
Superintendent Nicole Regan told the board that the guiding philosophies in crafting the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year included:
- Expand programming
- Hire carefully and strategically
- Avoid permanent expenses to meet temporary needs
- Apply for alternative funding and grants
- Maintaining a prudent fiscal approach due to inflation and supply and demand uncertainty
- Maintain current priorities and plans
- Continue to prioritize repairs and renovations to facilities when necessary to meet student needs
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When creating the budget, Rodriguez said officials aimed to balance internal sources such as personnel, operations, supplies and services with assistance from the state, property taxes and government. other income by monitoring daily expenses and maintaining a cash flow.
Inflation is more likely to affect travel spending, contract service spending, employee salaries, labor hiring, legislative proposals, property valuation projections, trends economic and student enrolment.
District enrollment has fluctuated, but has mostly declined since the 2011-2012 school year. For the 2022-23 school year, the district’s budget projections assumed a lower loss of student enrollment, putting GHS at just under 2,000 students.
The proposed budget had no property tax increase, but there was a 4.23% increase in Scotts Bluff County property tax assessments. This was almost in line with the increase from the previous year. The county’s valuation for the 2022-23 fiscal year is $859.1 million, down from $823.5 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The last two increases were the largest for the district in seven years.
The district levy will remain at $1.0499 for the general fund, $0.2200 for the bond fund and $0.0299 for the QCPUF fund. The total tax claim is $1.2998.
The levy is the amount of tax property owners pay for every $100 assessment of their property. The owner of a home worth $100,000 can expect to pay $1,299 in property taxes to the school district. Schools typically claim the majority of the total property tax bill from homeowners among local governments that cover that property.
Estimated local tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is $10.9 million, an increase of 2.2% from fiscal year 2021-22.
State aid is expected to decrease in the coming year. The budget calls for it to be $9.2 million, down 1.7% from the previous year. State funding represents only 25.5% of the district’s budgeted revenue.
“Our levy will remain unchanged for the coming year and our state aid is reduced,” Rodriguez said.
With state aid dwindling, Rodriguez said the main challenge in crafting the budget was balancing the priorities of all stakeholders.
The bulk of the district’s funding comes from local and state entities at 40.2% and 39.3%, respectively. Local money comes from the county from royalties, fines, licenses and taxes. State funding includes non-tax revenue from state aid, which includes insurance reimbursements.
Property tax for bond purposes, or what the district is obligated to pay for bonds and the revenue it needs to meet those bonds, is $1.9 million. For non-bond purposes, revenue paid into the general fund that the district receives from ratepayers is $9 million.
“We have not raised taxes. The levy remained the same. It’s just that we get more tax revenue because of the assessment,” Rodriguez said. “It’s actually due to the appraiser’s office and the value of the houses. We just get more income from what we take.
The general fund budget has increased by $1.8 million to $29.4 million for the 2022-23 school year. The district has forecast a 20.7% increase in general operating expenses from the 2021-22 school year due to federal funding, higher employee salaries and the creation of additional positions.
The district received a grant from the Federal CARES Act Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund to support the district during the coronavirus pandemic. The district has budgeted $2.3 million in ESSER III funds and $250,000 in ESSER II funds. These dollars will be used for HVAC upgrades at Gering Junior High School and other operating expenses.
Teachers’ base salary has increased by 1.8% to $38,150 in the new budget plan. Three stages have been added to the hikes for the teaching experience. Classified employees, administrators and newly hired teachers received a 2% increase in an effort to attract and retain quality staff. Two full-time teaching positions have been added as well as a campus security officer.
“Our budget is super bloated just because we have ESSER funds left, so we have this $2.3 million ESEER fund that has yet to be allocated,” Rodriguez told the Star-Herald. “We also received a $500,000 aviation grant last year. We still have $331,000 to spend on this grant. »
Federal funds make up 19.5% of revenue, items such as special education and grants. The latter may make the district’s budget look bloated, but Rodriquez said they’re helping give taxpayers a break.
“It’s a good thing because we can spend more and relieve property taxpayers,” she added. “That way we try to use other funding than just relying on property taxes.”
The largest budget expenditure for the district is salaries and benefits at $18.6 million or 68.3%. Professional services are $2.4 million or 8.7%; these are for transportation, utilities, legal fees and professional development. Supplies amount to $1.7 million or 6.4%, mainly school teaching materials. Capital expenditures are $3.7 million or 13.4%, including Chromebooks, textbook adoption and facility maintenance. Miscellaneous expenses are $872,756 or 3.2%, emergency carry forward fund.
GPS non-operating funds saw some increases, including a $337,642 increase in the cafeteria fund. Rodriguez said the increase is to cover higher contract costs with Taher, the district’s food service provider, as well as increased food costs and summer food expenses. The activity fund also increased by $200,000 due to the construction house.
The bond fund increased by $1 million due to principal and interest payments for general obligation bonds. There are 30-year bonds for Lincoln Elementary and Gering High Schools. A 15-year Americas bond was also used for Lincoln Elementary. The QCPUF fund increase of $109,716 is intended to repay principal and interest on bonds used for high school ADA access. A $1,144 increase in the student tuition fund was for fees related to Chromebooks and musical instruments.