Tahlequah Daily Press

October 10, 2012

TPS board approves preliminary budget

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education approved the district’s preliminary budget Monday evening.

Finance Director Diane Adamson said the figures will change throughout the year, but the benchmark had to be set this month.

The district anticipates more than $33 million in revenue, with an estimation of more than $5.5 million in carryover at the end of the year. That carryover projection would be about 17 percent of the district’s budget, potentially exceeding state limits of 14 percent for the second year in a row.

Districts with a budget of more than $10 million can exceed a 14-percent carryover one year, but if it is exceeded a second year in a row, the district will be penalized with the loss of some state funding. But Adamson said the carryover should eventually fall below the 14 percent mark.

“I really think ... when we remove the federal dollars and any of the in-kind for the co-op, we will be well below our 14 percent,” said Adamson.

She projected carryover to ultimately be between 12-1/2 and 13 percent.

Adamson said school officials will keep an eye on budget changes and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the carryover doesn’t exceed 14 percent at the end of the year.

“We need to bring it down under 14 percent to maintain our legal limits, but we’ll need to keep it as high a benchmark as we can on that carryover because we need that to maintain certain programs,” she said.

Adamson reminded board members that state and federal dollars have seen drastic cuts in recent years, but local tax collections have increased over the past five years.

“Isn’t the state required to equalize based on students; if we fall short of local revenues, the state is supposed to use their formula to equalize provisions for students?” Board Vice President Luke Foster asked.

Adamson said the theory has been established by the state, but the state “is falling short,” and has done so for the past five years or so.

She also said there has been some push in the Legislature to allow local districts to decide how much carryover they can have.

“It’s kind of a new idea,” said Adamson. “We know what’s best for our district.”

Foster agreed.

“They’re saying, ‘We’re not going to give you any more money in the future, but don’t save up for it,’” said Foster. “That’s stupid.”

TPS Executive Director of Technology and Operations Terry Garrett said the district’s own policy is to maintain a minimum 6 percent carryover, with hopes of maintaining carryover of 8-14 percent of the yearly budget.

Adamson also told board members salaries are projected to account this year for about 67.5 percent of the district’s budget, an 11 percent decrease over the past five years.

Superintendent Lisa Presley said district officials are not displeased with the percentage, considering TPS added a new school and dozens of new employees this year.

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