Morenci school budget approved 06.30.2010

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It’s going to be another year of deficit spending for Morenci Area Schools as the district’s savings continues to decline.

District finance director Erica Metcalf told board members last week that current fiscal year spending could end up with a deficit as high as $100,000, but she expects it to be less.

For 2008-09, the forecast called for a deficit of $150,000, but it ended about half that amount.

Metcalf presented the board with a worst-case deficit of $300,000 for the next school year. She based that on an additional state aid cut of $268 a student and an enrollment of 764 students.

The cut from the state might not be as great as projected, she said, but the district needs to prepare for the worst situation—and hope for the best, she added.

With so many students moving in and out of the district, Metcalf said that enrollment is an even greater wild card than the state’s foundation allowance.

Many districts across the state are seeing an increase in delinquent taxes, she said, which causes a cash shortfall until the county fills the gap.

Increases in retirement costs equates to a per-student cost of about $150, according to state estimates.

“It’s impressive how much has been cut,” Metcalf said.

A year ago the district borrowed $1.1 million in anticipation of state aid funds; this year $700,000 will be borrowed.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Metcalf doesn’t expect the shortfall to stay as high as $300,000, but many unknowns remain.

“All in all, with as much uncertainty as we face, while it’s hard to say that I’m pleased with a $300,000 deficit,” she said, “we’ve made up some serious ground.”

Supt. Michael Osborne spoke of the frustration of facing a large deficit despite the many cuts already made.

“This is projected to be one of the worst years yet,” he said, “and even with all the work we’ve done, we still are looking at a deficit that’s larger than we’ve ever seen before.”

He would like to be able to start adding back in the fall instead of making cuts, but that won’t be known until later if that’s possible.

School board president Scott Merillat also expressed his gratitude to staff members for the cuts and adjustments made.

Earlier in the year, he said, a $700,000 deficit looked like a possibility, with cash savings of only $650,000.

Budgeted spending for the next school year stands at $6 million, down from $6.7 million in the current year.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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