East Grand schools end fiscal year with budget surplus | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand schools end fiscal year with budget surplus

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO Colorado

GRANBY – In the wrap-up of the East Grand School District’s 2010-2011 fiscal year, the district averted worst-case-scenario projections, largely due to area property owners and developers catching up on delinquent property taxes.

Because of factors including a property-tax surplus and saving in expenses, the district may find itself with an additional $804,000 in its final 2010-11 fund balance.

The percentage of property-tax delinquencies in the county is down overall by 18 percent, according to Grand County Treasurer Christina Whitmer, and foreclosures have also decreased.

The East Grand School District’s budget for fiscal year July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, had anticipated a 2.4 percent uncollectible rate in property taxes, equating to about $242,000. In years prior to the recession, that average uncollectible rate was more in the ballpark of 1 percent, according to District Business Manager Donette Schmiedbauer.

But because lot owners and developers, such as within Grand Elk and Granby Ranch, have become current in property tax payments on top of lien-holder payments, the district saw an increase of $168,803 to its fund balance recently. In essence, large installments of property taxes were paid twice in one fiscal year.

That money is in addition to current-month estimated property tax collections still scheduled to be submitted to the district and added to the past fiscal year. The district has a 60-day window to collect revenue earned in the prior fiscal year.

The Grand County government’s fiscal year follows the calendar year, whereas the district’s does not, making for a challenge in estimating and applying property tax collections, according to Whitmer.

And because of unanticipated grants for counselor positions and the use of “Closing the Achievement Gap” and “Center for Data Driven Reform” grant money, more savings were added to the general fund’s bottom line, Schmeidbauer said in a line-by-line presentation at the Aug. 16 East Grand board meeting.

In all, $305,000 was saved in expenditures, if by attrition in the technology department or district office administrative support, with legal costs saved using a grant through the Colorado Legacy Organization, personnel and supply savings, and increased savings in utility costs more than what was projected from energy-saving improvements made to buildings last year.

Longtime District Accountability Committee member Jim Lahrman, who sat in the audience during the presentation, was one to acknowledge how this might feel to the Grand Lake representative on the board, Barbara Ahrens. The Grand Lake school, which cost the district around $600,000 annually, was closed as a result of 2011-2012 budget-cut decisions.

The district discussed using most of the added funds to put the district’s reserves over the $3 million mark.

“I feel for the first time in my three years,” said East Grand Superintendent Nancy Karas, “I feel I can take a breath of relief.”

Barring further state cuts or a loss of more than 70 students in the October student count, the district may end up in the black at the end the current fiscal year, Karas said.

Lahrman challenged the board to consider what has been cut, and to take some of the found money to return a few of the programs to the district. He asked the District Accountability Committee be allowed to consider what can be added back in. Board members responded, saying about $100,000 might be a reasonable number to work with.

Although some board members thought a reduction in student fees would be a way to put “real cash back into people’s pocket,” High School Principal Jane Harmon advocated for bringing back lost administrative programs, such as a business (with added marketing) elective in the high school, to augment the educational experience.

And Karas advocated for teachers, saying before long the district should start “moving staff on salary schedules, so we don’t continue seeing 14 percent to 17 percent turnover rates.”

Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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