Proposed school budget builds reserve, maintains service level

Ashland School District expects to retain its current service level and start building its reserve fund with the next fiscal year’s budget, according to the district’s finance director.

The district expects to see an increase of $3.2 million in revenue thanks to state allocation and local tax revenues, according to the proposed budget. That’s a 6.26 percent increase compared to last year’s budget of $50.6 million.

“The increase in revenues will mostly use to cover all the increase in expenses we see every year,” said Jordan Ely, the district’s finance director. “(Oregon Public Employees Retirement System), health care costs, salaries for employees and contracted services — they’re all going up.”

The district’s budget committee met April 18 to review the budget.

“The meeting was an opportunity for the district to introduce the budget,” Ely said, “No changes were made at the meeting.”

He added that the committee might agree to recommend the budget to the School Board at the committees second meeting on Wednesday, May 2.

The most significant line item in next year’s budget is the reserve fund proposal, Ely said.

“It’s the strongest proposal we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” he said.

The district is looking to build a 9 percent reserve fund — or roughly $3 million — “to weather any unexpected costs,” as well as the increase cost in PERS that is anticipated to hit in fiscal year 2020, Ely said. The state recommends districts to have a 8 percent reserve fund.

The district’s personnel and the level of services will remain at the same level over the next year fiscal year, Ely said. The only adjustment in personnel is a reduction of one full-time staffer in the district office and addition of a new full-time teacher at Walker Elementary School.

The district will also dedicate roughly $500,000 from the general fund to pay for curriculum and technology updates, accordingly to its strategic investment plan established in 2017.

In its proposed budget, the district also lays out a number of concerns, including deferred maintenance, future PERS increase and health care costs.

Ely said the district will always have a significant amount of deferred maintenance on its list, as the district has a large inventory of facilities within and beyond the city’s limits.

“(The item) was listed as a reminder that we have very limited options to address it,” he said.

The district is currently going through a process to decide whether to request voters approve a bond in November, which would have the potential to address “a significant amount of deferred maintenance.” But it’s too early in the process to say what the amount would be or what the bond would pay for, Ely said.

Ashland School District operates through a self-insurance health care program that currently breaks even. The district doesn’t have a reserve for health care costs at the moment, Ely said. It is recommended the district have a $1.6 million in reserve in case of a “worst case scenario.”

The bond committee meeting is at 7 p.m. May 2 at the District Office Meeting Room, 885 Siskiyou Boulevard.
—Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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