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Argyle school board adopts budget with deficit

Profile image for By Britney Tabor /Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor /Staff Writer

ARGYLE — The Argyle school board has adopted the district’s 2013-14 budget with a $200,000 deficit, and district officials said more expenses could be added.

On Monday, board members adopted the budget, 7-0. The new fiscal year begins Sept. 1.

According to the budget presentation — which included cover art of a money tree and a watering can — operating expenses for 2013-14 will total more than $15.79 million. The district projects $15.59 million will be generated in revenue. 

Additional expenses that could be brought before trustees as budget amendments include the salary for a district police chief and the salary for an instructional technologist, a position the board officially filled Monday.

The recommendation also indicates an amendment could be brought to the board in September “as necessary” to include the remainder of roof repairs for the middle school/high school campus and a portion of foam roof repairs at the intermediate school. The district is repairing hail damages from June 2011, and it’s uncertain if repairs will be completed by the close of the 2012-13 fiscal year next week. 

The district advertised the police chief salary this week with a salary range of $55,000 to $90,000 annually.

Prior to the board’s vote to approve the establishment of a district police department earlier this month, $55,000 of the $92,500 assigned to security and monitoring services was designated for hiring a school resource officer. District officials say those funds will now be allocated toward a police chief salary. 

If Argyle purchases a police vehicle it would be another added expense, according to district officials. It’s uncertain if a vehicle will be purchased or leased. 

“At this time, we would need more information regarding a cost of a lease or purchase of a vehicle to know how it will affect our budget,” said Liz Stewart, the district’s chief financial officer. “I do believe that either way it would include an [expense] increase.” 

Superintendent Telena Wright said the district intends to spend about $50,000 for the instructional technologist salary and benefits that will have to be added to the operating budget. 

Payroll expenditures make up a large chunk of the costs budgeted for the operating fund, according to the documents.

In June, the school board approved $1,200 pay increases for teachers and full-time librarians, counselors and school nurses, a 3 percent pay increase for all other district employees, and substitute rate increases. District officials have said $228,000 is being budgeted for pay increases going to teachers and full-time librarians, counselors and school nurses, $79,500 is being set aside for all other district employee raises, and about $25,000 is being designated for substitute rate increases. Also included in the operating budget was the reinstatement of 3.5 positions eliminated in 2011-12. The district said those positions total less than $200,000. 

Board President Kevin Faciane said adopting a budget deficit is not the example trustees want to set for the district, but a decision was made to give raises to employees and he stands by it. He said district staff have “sacrificed plenty” the past couple years. 

“We felt it was important that we take care of our teachers and our staff this year,” Faciane said. “This was the primary reason for passing a deficit budget. It was the right thing to do.”

Wright said in June that teachers, full-time librarians, counselors and school nurses had not received “a significant increase in several years.” The only pay bumps for Argyle teachers, full-time librarians, counselors and school nurses in 2012-13 were step increases, and the year prior they received $500 in addition to their step increases. In 2009-10 and in 2010-11, teachers and full-time librarians, counselors and nurses received $1,000 raises in addition to step increases, according to district documents. Wright has said the pay increases are being offered to offset increased insurance costs.

The district has more than $5.2 million in reserves, according to Wright. She has said the fund balance reserves could be used to offset the deficit in the operating budget, but she also hopes the projected shortfall could be absorbed by an increase in student enrollment, which would generate additional revenue, or by expenses coming in under budget. 

Board member Spencer Jefferies expressed concern Monday that the budget shortfall could top $300,000 and that he worried the district would face a shortfall with increased expenses the 2014-15 fiscal year.

He voted with the other board member to adopt the budget, however, and afterward directed questions to Faciane.

The board also adopted a budget deficit the 2012-13 year but was able to absorb it by a tax rate increase. 

Last September voters approved a 6-cent maintenance and operations tax rate increase to absorb a more than $500,000 deficit in the 2012-13 budget. 

“During the tax rate hearings last year, we showed the long-term budget prospects,” Faciane said. “We’ve anticipated, even last year, ... that we may have to run a deficit budget for a year or two until the new developments would add new students to the district, which would eventually take us out of the deficit budget. The important part to point out is that’s a temporary deficit. As the district experiences growth, that deficit will disappear.” 

According to Stewart, the district should complete the 2012-13 fiscal year with a $72,000 surplus that will be added to fund balance reserves. It was projected when the tax rate increase was approved by voters last September that the district would have a surplus of $66,000. 

Faciane said he feels the board has been fiscally prudent.

In a separate motion, trustees voted 7-0 to decrease the district tax rate for capital projects by half a penny, bringing the total tax rate to $1.47505 per $100 valuation. 

In a combined budget vote, trustees also adopted balanced budgets for the district’s debt service and food service funds. According to district documents, debt service expenses are expected to total more than $4.17 million and food service costs will top $910,000. 

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.

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