FHSD Projects Budget Deficit

By Priscilla Joel

For the upcoming fiscal school year, FHSD is planning to make several cuts to the budget in order to save money since the district is projected to be in at least a $22 million deficit for next year.

“We began the conversation with the Board of Education (BOE) when we did our retreat in June and then we had another work session with the Board in October,” FHSD Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple said. “We always take a look at five-year projections as to where the district is headed financially and it was in the context of those conversations that we arrived at the termination to make the budget cuts.”

The decrease in FHSD staff could come from any and all categories of employees who work for the District. Only some employees who are being laid off have already been notified. As for the others, the decision won’t be made until further into the year; however, as many as 66 positions could be cut District-wide by the current proposal. Typically, the majority of all of a district’s expenditures are staff-related so that’s a major area in which costs are cut.

“We needed to reduce our expenditures to better align them with the revenue that we anticipate receiving,” Supple said. “It’s to ensure the fiscal stability of the school district on a long term basis.”

The staff reduction will result in a $4.2 million decrease in the coming year’s expenditures. The remaining portion of the expenses come from non-personnel factors such as transportation, electricity, gas, water and sewer services where there is little to no room for cuts in cost.

The other elements of the budget are still being discussed and will become more absolute in the next 1-2 months. The decision to make these cuts began with discussions in the BOE meetings where current staffing assignments were discussed to identify potential areas where cuts could be made while ensuring that essential programs for students are maintained.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to reduce some expenditures, we’ll be able to come under budget,” FHSD Director of Finance Cindy Reilmann said. “If we can possibly get some increased revenues, whether it’s state or local revenues, then we can hopefully continue to provide the education that we’re known for.”

One of the main factors that caused the deficit was the money lost to a special purpose levy. This was a tax collected to be used for special circumstances that would come up in the school year. However, the BOE had promised voters that after five years, the tax would not be collected. Last year being the fifth year, the voters will no longer pay this tax, causing a shortage in the District’s budget for the coming fiscal year.

Other factors that led to the deficit were additional professional

development days that were added to the school calendar along with 6.5 percent staff raises this year and 4 percent raises last year. The budget-cutting proposal came after a Board-approved budget amendment increased District salaries by $665,000 one month earlier.

Because student enrollment in FHSD has maintained fairly consistent stability over the past few years, it is not very likely that classes will have a drastic increase in size.

“We anticipate very modest changes in class size as a result of the changes and it will be impacting different schools differently,” Supple said.

The final budget will be established by the BOE and officially adopted on June 18 of this year.

“I think that nothing’s going to change next year in terms of the quality [of education] that kids are getting,” Head Principal Andy Downs, said. “I really believe that our teachers are going to work hard to make sure that that continues to happen.”