As she reaches the completion of her first year as Lonedell’s superintendent, Jen Ulrich hopes the first budget she has had to put together will be one of the district’s worst.
Ulrich, who took over as the R-XIV boss last July after Fred VanBibber retired, turned in a budget for the 2014-15 academic year that has about $200,000 more going out in expenditures than Lonedell has coming in as revenue.
Ulrich had been principal of Lonedell School for several years before she was promoted to the top job about a year ago.
The board of education unanimously approved the budget late last month during its June meeting.
“There are multiple challenges facing our district,” Ulrich said while explaining the budget to board members. “We’re operating on a shoestring budget. Revenues are shrinking. So, we need to shrink our expenditures as well.”
Lonedell’s 2014-15 budget totals $4.717 million. Revenue is projected to be $4.532 million. The difference is almost $186,000.
“We have to remember that a budget is our best guess,” Ulrich said. “No where do we get from anyone that this is what we’re actually getting as far as revenue. This is what, to the best of our knowledge, we think will happen as far as revenue and expenses.”
The 2014-15 budget marks the fourth year in a row the district has operated in the red, Ulrich said.
However, despite the numbers, the superintendent reminded board members that Lonedell is “very stable” as far as its finances. She said the district has a 42 percent reserve balance, meaning that if the district has absolutely no money, it has 42 percent of what it would need to operate a school year saved in its reserves.
“That’s very healthy,” she said. “We need to be thankful that we have that much in reserves.”
Lonedell has been hit with shrinking revenues the last couple of years. For the 2013-14 academic year, the school district took a 7.49 percent hit as its local assessed valuation dropped from $38.69 million to $35.79 million. This year, the assessed valuation has dropped another seven-tenths of a percent, slipping to $35.51 million.
“We’ve never had two years in a row when our assessed valuation has dropped,” Ulrich said. “Money is just down. We have less to work with. That’s all there is to it.”
A year ago at this time, the budget deficit was projected to be about $28,000. The approved 2013-14 budget was $4.828 million. And that budget was slightly less than the 2012-13 budget that totaled $4.89 million.
The budget does not include a salary raise for teachers. A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the R-XIV district again will make $30,000. The maximum a teacher can make in Lonedell is $57,000.
“We’re just not able to provide raises,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich’s budget figures have Lonedell receiving about $1.83 million in local revenue, $185,000 from the county, $2 million from the state and about $443,000 in federal money.
The state money is based on Ulrich’s projection that the state education formula will be funded at 95 percent. Other districts, including St. Clair R-XIII, have based their budgets on the state funding its education formula at 97 percent.
Ulrich also talked about a drop in average daily attendance funds.
On the expense side, about half of Lonedell’s money goes to salaries and tuition. Both total more than $1 million.
Capital (building) projects are at a minimum.
“Some of those projects may have to be put on hold,” Ulrich said. “We just may not have enough money for the majority of our capital projects.”