Board Lays Out Financial Options

Staff Writer

The St. Marys City Schools Board of Education met before the public for a finance meeting on Wednesday; its last day in the downtown administrative office.

The focus of the meeting was to evaluate the five-year forecast for the district’s finances.

Board Treasurer Robin Laman explained how each of the district’s accounts are projected to change over the course of the next five fiscal years.

“As we’ve said before, we’ve got separate pots of money,” she said. 

Laman explained that the general fund functioned similar to a savings account, indicating that its main function was to be held in reserve for an emergency.

“Funds can only be transferred out of the general fund by board action,” she said.

The other funds and accounts held by the district are the Technology Account — to fund the One-to-One Chromebook initiative — the Classroom and Facility Maintenance Account for maintenance of the properties and classrooms as well as building safety, the Permanent Improvement Fund for improvements to the facilities [i.e. bus purchases, textbook purchases], the Permanent Improvement Fund Reserve Account — set up as a reserve for turf replacement and light additions at the new football stadium — and the Building Account which can be used for any capital improvements.

School administrators elaborated on some of the cost saving measures that are already underway within the district.

“Tomorrow, we’re out of here [downtown offices],” Laman said. “We’re moving to the middle/high school so there’s another $12,000 we’re saving the district — closer to $15,000 when you add utilities.”

Loss of offices are not the only cuts being made. 

High School Principal Bill Ruane highlighted reduced full-time staff and program cuts as ways for the high school to reduce its expenses.

“With the promotion of Nick Hager to assistant principal, we’re looking to figure out the schedule to get a part-time math teacher,” Ruane said. “The result of some of that savings is that we will see class sizes go up. 

“Some of our programs are phasing out — French [language courses] at the high school, we’re looking at exploring phasing out STEM at the high school — there will be savings but there will be some programs and services lost at the same time.”

Ruane added that Latin and Spanish courses are expected to remain because of the demand from students.

The board was presented with five levy options to put on the November ballot. The five options’ — which are all five-year terms — and annual yields are: traditional income tax at a 0.75 percent rate [$2.1 million], traditional income tax at a 1 percent rate [$2.82 million], earned income tax at a 1 percent rate [$2.435 million], earned income tax at a 1.25 percent rate [$3.044 million] and an additional emergency levy [$2.5 million].

The board stressed the importance of passing a renewal of the current emergency property tax levy as opposed to creating a new, larger emergency levy because of a state incentive called the homestead rollback. With the rollback, 12.5 percent of the emergency property tax is paid by the state with the tax payers covering the remaining 87.5 percent. The current emergency levy, including the rollback, expires in fiscal year 2020.

To read the rest of the story, see Thursday's print edition of The Evening Leader.