East Grand projects $700k budget surplus | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand projects $700k budget surplus

East Grand School District anticipates Board of Education approval of next year's budget at next week's Board meeting on June 20.

Multiple projects are on the docket for East Grand School District, from roof repair work at Granby Elementary to irrigation work at Fraser Valley. But as the month moves towards its close, lead administrators are focusing on finalizing the district budget for the coming year.

The budget proposal will go back before the East Grand Board of Education on June 20 for anticipated final approval.

The total district budget for the 2017-2018 school year is projected at $12,767,644. The total is a significant jump from last year's budget total of $12,231,438, representing a one-year budget increase of $536,206. This is the single largest year-to-year increase in the budget for East Grand over the past three years.

The jumped in funding was spurred in part by a pair State Senate bills that passed through the Colorado Legislature this year, Senate Bill 296 and Senate Bill 267. The two bills increased school funding in different ways with one bill increasing the state's Per Pupil Funding figure and the other providing a one-time influx of funding to rural schools, hospitals and transportation networks.

That bill provides East Grand with an extra $259,000 for the coming school year. When that is added to the increase in Per Pupil Revenue, climbing to $7,739 next year from this year's figure of $7,501.20. The State provides significant funding to school districts, a little over $4 million of East Grand's total budget next year, and the Per Pupil Revenue figure is used to determine how much each school gets. The number of students is multiplied by the Per Pupil Revenue figure to determine a total funding amount.

On the flip side East Grand is anticipating total revenues for the next year at $13,499,400. Revenues are broken down into sources with East Grand receiving the lion's share of next year's budget from local taxpayers, totaling $8,720,770. Taxpayers for the State of Colorado are footing $4,147,561 of the total budget bill while the Federal government's share comes in at $395,500.

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For 2017-2018 both local and state revenues increased for East Grand from last year's totals, by $230,000 and $1.8 million respectively. Federal revenues however decreased drastically, by more than 50 percent of last year's total, dropping from $812,262 in 2016/2017 and falling $417,762.

While budgets often change over the course of a year; based on revenue and expenditure projections East Grand is anticipating a budget surplus at the end of next year of $731,755. That represents a significant change from this school year, which saw East Grand end with a budget deficit of $363,426.

According to East Grand senior administrators, Superintendent Frank Reeves and Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer, the budget deficit from this school year was entirely attributable to the district's requirement to repay property taxes to YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch.

During the last school year Grand County, which serves as the tax collection entity for property taxes levied within the school district, withheld $531,000 in revenues from the district that were paid directly to YMCA. The payments were effectively court mandates and were to cover property taxes improperly levied on the nonprofit religious institution fro 2002 to 2004. According to district officials without the tax withholding East Grand would have had a budget surplus this year of roughly $150,000.

The taxing status of YMCA created another budgetary issue for East Grand. The property was taxed from 2002 to 2004. Afterwards no additional property taxes were levied on YMCA while its taxing status was decided in court. Normally when a large property like YMCA is designated as tax exempt the State of Colorado recognizes that exemption and backfills a portion of the property taxes that would otherwise have gone to the local school district. Because YMCA's tax status was in limbo though the state did not backfill uncollected property taxes.

According to district officials from 2004 to the end of the legal battle in Dec. 2016 East Grand lost out on roughly $885,000 in revenues from the state. Because the YMCA litigation was ongoing and the state did not formally recognize the district as losing property tax revenue no backfilling occurred.

"We found out the CDE does not support us collecting the money back from the state, even though we feel they owe it to us through the school finance formula," Reeves said.

District officials lobbied the State Department of Education this year for the funds but were denied. Superintendent Reeves said the district might enact a tax abatement next year to cover the lost revenue; if that does occur local taxpayers could potentially see a one time increase in their mill levy, occurring next year. The formal decision on abatement will be made by the Board of Education at the first meeting in December, when the Board normally addresses mill levy rates for the coming year.