Morenci school budget shows deficit 6.25

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Planning for the worst; hoping for something better.

That’s what school budget making is all about during tough financial times.

It’s always a challenge, notes Morenci schools financial director Erica Metcalf. A spending plan must be approved before the start of the next fiscal year even though two key revenue factors—student enrollment and state aid—are unknown.

The procees often leads to a disheartening outcome, Metcalf told board of education members Thursday.

“You can spend countless hours and by the time you’re done, it’s obsolete,” she said.

Metcalf didn’t have much in the way of good news for the board to consider. Declining enrollment estimates point toward a drop in revenue that could approach $150,000. That’s the same number she projects for a possible deficit in the next school year.

Metcalf presents a worst-case scenario and hopes the situation doesn’t sink that low.

A year ago she anticipated the deficit could reach $150,000. Instead, losses ended at $92,500. If the district does end the year $150,000 in the red, the fund balance will shrink to just over $500,000.

“Enrollment is a cause for concern,” she said.

As the school year ended, kindergarten enrollment stood at an unusually low 40 students, down from 61 in the year that just ended. Combined with a developmental kindergarten enrollment of 19, enrollment could drop by 12 just from the first-year students.

Add that to the returning students and the district could see a drop of at least 20 students. The actual figure won’t be known until the state’s official count day on the fourth Wednesday of September.

Metcalf doesn’t see much encouragement in the near future, either, with a large senior class of 78 and an in-coming freshman class in the mid-60s.

The enrollment situation will have to be monitored in the next school year, she said, when the final kindergarten number is known and the gains and losses through School of Choice are compiled.

Board members voted later to authorize a $950,000 loan through the Michigan Municipal Loan Authority to cover a shortfall in cash until state aid payments arrive.

MEMBER—Former board member James Place was sworn into office after offering to fill an empty seat on the board following the resignation of Merton Easler.

Place will serve until the school election in May 2009.

MERIT—Seven teachers were chosen by building principals to receive $350 credit for teaching supplies and equipment through the merit pay program.

Pat Burnard and Holly Bella were both cited for their work with the elementary school literacy program.

At the middle school, three science teachers—Dan Hoffman, Jim Bauer and Deb Williams—will share two awards.

At the high school, Math and Science Club advisor Kerry Nieman and Green Earth Club advisor Heather Whitehouse were selected.

JULY—The regular July meeting is scheduled July 7. The annual organizational meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the regular meeting.

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