Members of the St. Clair R-XIII School District Board of Education and administrative team started their tug of war with the proposed 2014-15 budget Thursday night in an attempt to make ends meet.

A special budget workshop session was conducted that included a lengthy executive session as district leaders began looking at how to make projected expenses for the coming year line up with predicted revenues.

No personnel cuts through dismissals have been made yet, but that still could happen in the future. The board did accept a handful of resignations Thursday night that could help to bring the district’s expenses closer to the projected revenue.

The resignations included two teachers, a speech and language pathologist, a literacy coach and two custodians.

Several other staff resignations were accepted earlier in the year.

The executive session lasted about 90 minutes. When open session resumed, no votes were taken other than accepting the resignations.

Budget Deficit

The special meeting was deemed necessary after Superintendent Mike Murphy informed board members earlier this month that the district may be facing up to a $1 million or more deficit during the next couple of years.

During the scheduled March meeting at the beginning of the month, Murphy went through a financial review of the district that included figures showing flat and declining assessed valuations. He also outlined a two-phase plan that could target as much as $1.5 million in budget cuts.

The two-phase plan covers the next two academic years and shows how the district can trim expenses at each of its four schools, in the central office and in transportation and other services. Possible cuts could include eliminating staff positions, both classified and certified, as well as trimming or cutting programs and transportation.

On Thursday, Murphy reviewed those documents with board members and went through a budget review that specifically showed how the district spends its money.

The superintendent said that the school district still is in a “relatively strong” financial position and that the budget situation “is not a true sense of urgency.”

However, he said that the district must “closely look at how we’re spending money. We have to take a hard look at how we’re going to restructure our budget ... and work on our expenses as related directly to our revenue. We have to draw our revenue and expenses closer together.”

Murphy continued by saying that, “We have some significant challenges ahead.”

He said R-XIII currently has about $4 million in surplus funds in the bank, “but we don’t want to exhaust the flexibility that provides.”

The group then went into the executive session to discuss specifics, including personnel.

If approved by the board in its entirety, Phase I of Murphy’s outlined plan cuts about $850,000. Phase II, which targets the 2015-16 academic year, adds another $585,000 in cuts.

The superintendent stressed during the first March meeting that his plans were preliminary. As more concrete numbers come in during the next few months, decisions will be made, he said.

Five-Year Report

According to the annual secretary of the board five-year report, R-XIII received $21.23 million in total revenue in 2012-13. The current 2013-14 year shows that figure to be $20.15 million. Right now, the projections for 2014-15 are $19.48 million.

According to figures in the ASBR review, assessed valuation in the R-XIII district was $148 million in 2012-13. The amount fell to $139.5 million this year and is expected to be at that same lower level during the next academic year.

The decrease computes to about a 6 percent drop.

A gradual decline in enrollment within the district also affects per-pupil money St. Clair gets from the state. On Thursday, Murphy estimated that amount could add as much as $400,000 to the shortfall.

The good news shared on Thursday was that the state is looking at increasing the amount of money allocated for the education funding formula.

Currently, Murphy said districts receive 93 percent of the money allocated to them through the formula. He said that figure could move to as high as 97.5 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

“That is very, very good news for us,” Murphy said. “That could help fill a portion of the shortfall.”

The superintendent estimated the noted increase could add up to an additional $400,000 in what he called “new money” for the district.

Currently, Murphy said he actually expects anywhere between $500,000 and $750,000 in cuts will need to be made to balance the upcoming academic year budget with the remainder coming the year after that.