Ralston Public Schools will have less money to work with this year, since the district saw a 1.9% decrease in property valuation. The district’s valuation is currently at $1,487,649,120.
The district did see an uptick in state aid, however, which Assistant Superintendent for Business Brad Dahl said is a “large part of our budget.” State aid to Ralston increased by $266,000 this year.
The increase in state aid brought some unintended consequences, however. Ralston is part of the Learning Community, which levies a 95 cent tax on all those in Douglas and Sarpy counties. These common levy funds are then distributed among districts.
The formula for distribution is based on needs minus state aid minus other accountable receipts. Since Ralston’s needs did not increase but their state aid did, the amount of money they were eligible to receive from the Learning Community common levy decreased by $640,000.
Due in part to these losses and in part to coming in $2.7 million over budget last year, Ralston Public Schools’ preliminary budget for 2013-14 is around $520,000 less than the district’s 2012-13 budget.
“The biggest area where we’re saving money is personnel costs,” Dahl said. “We reduced the number of full-time employees to help offset increased costs of teacher packages, health insurance, retirement costs and operational costs.”
The district is not looking to increase taxes on residents at this time. “We are at levy limits and cannot tax any more in our general fund because of that cap,” Dahl said. “We may have to increase our bond fund ever-so-slightly to offset our obligation there.”
Dahl also said that the district has “controls,” such as textbooks and technology, that will not be purchased until near the end of the fiscal year, in July or August of 2014. “We are budgeting for those purchases, but, if we don’t receive enough revenue, we’ll hold off on some of those expenditures until we can get enough or until the economy turns around,” Dahl said. “Those things are important to us, but we need to make sure we can manage our budget and stay as economical as possible.”
Although the budget currently before the Board is above projected revenues for the year, Dahl said he is “optimistic that we’ll do everything we can to control the spending of any cash reserve that we do have.” The Board will vote to create a finalized budget at their Sept. 9 meeting.
Board President Linda Richards said that the current budget is just a preliminary version, and more work needs to be done to finalize numbers before there can be a final vote or budget hearing. “It’s a process,” Richards said. “We just received valuation numbers.”
Budgets are due to the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts by Sept. 20.