Even though the 2013-14 budget approved by the St. Clair R-XIII School District Board of Education projects expenses well exceeding revenue, it features operating under the same tax rate, giving raises to staff, providing insurance options for all full-time employees and initiating a bold plan that provides one-on-one digital learning.

The new budget, which is described as a working document that estimates those revenues and expenses, also absorbs about a 7 percent expected decline in local assessed valuation and the continuation of being underfunded by the state through its allocation formula.

Finally, the budget was put together without the need to borrow money to help pay the bills while keeping the unrestricted operating fund balance percentages at the district’s targeted amount.

“When we’re dealing with a decrease in funding like this, we cannot continue to provide the same type of quality education without reinventing ourselves,” R-XIII Superintendent Mike Murphy told The Missourian before Thursday’s meeting. “We have two choices. We can run and hide or we can decide to deal with it. We’re dealing with it.

“We have no choice.”

The fiscal year 2013-14 budget, which unanimously was approved during Thursday’s board of education meeting, totals $21.58 million.

For the third straight year, the budget is less than the prior year. The current budget approved a year ago was $22.54 million. In 2011-12, it totaled $23.33 million.

According to figures presented during Thursday’s meeting, the difference for the upcoming fiscal year between estimated revenue and expenses is $1.5 million.

“It was not my intent to have this level of difference between revenue and expenses,” R-XIII Superintendent Mike Murphy said to the board members on Thursday. “It is a significant deficit-spend budget. ... But we’re not borrowing money and are committing funds to implement it.

“My recommendation is to approve this budget.”

Murphy said he received the letter from the assessor’s office late last week. The projected 7 percent decrease in assessed valuation came as a surprise, he said.

“We were looking at flat (local) funding before we received the letter,” he said about working on the budget before the assessment figures came into his office.

Key Components

According to projections from the Franklin County Assessor’s Office presented to the board by Murphy during the meeting, current assessed valuation in the district will be $10.6 million less than the prior year, or about 7 percent.

“This carries a negative impact of local revenue to be estimated at approximately $325,000 to our schools,” Murphy said, adding he thought the decrease is a reflection, at least in part, of a new electronic system utilized in the county to more accurately reflect assessed values of property.

As far as the district’s tax levy, Murphy said he will recommend $3.37 per $100 of assessed valuation. That is the same amount the district has operated with since the 2004-05 academic year.

The tax rate breaks down to $2.05 in the incidental fund, 70 cents in the special revenue fund and 62 cents in the debt service fund. The board formally will approve the annual tax rate in August.

The budget includes the already-approved salary step movement and educational advancement for certified staff, resulting in an average pay increase of 3.1 percent. The base rate of pay for a teacher is increasing $500 to $31,500 this fall.

Also, classified employees will get somewhere between a 1.5 and 2 percent pay hike. That amount varies depending on the individual’s health plan choice. Administrative salaries will increase by 3.1 percent except for Murphy, who is getting a 3.5 percent increase through his three-year contract approved last year.

Murphy also mentioned the state’s school funding formula and that the projected proration factor for state aid will be 93 percent of the total calculation for state aid.

“A full funding of the formula would provide an additional $650,000 to our schools for educational purposes,” Murphy said. “Advocating for full funding of the state formula is essential in our current financial environment with reductions in local assessment, federal funding and student enrollment declining.”

One-to-One Learning

Before the budget was approved, the board and Murphy went through a detailed discussion about the one-to-one digital learning.

The budget includes funding to purchase more than 1,400 Google Chromebooks that will be distributed to every junior and senior high school student in January.

“Our district will employ the first generation of one-to-one computing in the spring of the 2013-14 school year,” Murphy said. “This budget reflects a purchase of a Chromebook for all students and faculty at an estimated cost of $300 per unit. This provides the opportunity for wireless connectivity at home and school and for students and staff to communicate.”

The total price tag included in the budget is $431,000.

The one-to-one digital learning will be implemented in four phases, with the first being informational that will continue through October. From that point through the end of the first semester, lesson design and detailed planning for the second semester will continue.

In January after the Christmas break, the district’s older students will receive and use their devices during the second semester as part of the third phase.

At the end of the upcoming school year, the devices will be collected and the program tweaked. Full implementation then is planned for the 2014-15 academic year.

More information about the program will be detailed in a future story in The Missourian.

The R-XIII school district operates out of four funds — operations, teacher, debt service and capital projects.

“I think we’re being very good financial stewards of our money in this district,” board member Dave Hinson said toward the end of Thursday’s budget discussion.

“Yes, this leaves you with some money and provides you flexibility,” Murphy said in response.

He added that he believes the district remains in solid financial shape.

The budget does not include the Franklin County Cooperative.

Current Budget

Board members on Thursday gave Murphy the authority as the district’s chief financial officer to amend the 2012-13 budget on June 30 to reflect actual revenue and expenditures on all line items.

The final figures will be brought to the board in July.

The board also gave Murphy the approval of transfers to the capital projects fund.