Morenci school board 2013.01.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci school’s general fund deficit has shrunk to $83,000 for the current school year and administrators are still hoping to reduce that amount by the time the school year ends.

For the following school year, however, the battle will begin all over again with a deficit expected to top $314,000.

“Overall we’re in a better situation,” said  finance director Erica Metcalf, “but we have a lot of work to do. There’s a flicker of hope that we can get there this year.”

Metcalf told school board members Monday how the financial picture has changed since her budget forecast was made last summer.

Improvements include a $37,000 insurance payment from a lightning strike that occurred in 2011; A $40,000 carryover in Title I funds, a change in special education funding; a change in transportation reimbursement from the LISD; an increase in At-Risk funding; and payment of delinquent taxes from Schoeller Arca Systems—the successor of Palm Plastics.

Overall, she said, there were several factors that she was unsure about when the budget was written.

The board approved an updated budget showing a deficit of $83,000, but Metcalf said she expects a smaller number by the end of the school year. In April, after winter tax payments are in and weather-related costs are known, she will have a much better idea of where the district stands.

“We’ve done a lot, but we have a lot to do,” she said. “When you look past June 30, it’s doom and gloom all over again.”

Board member Laura Spencer said she’s pleased with the improvement in the general fund, but as a CPA she would vote against the update because a deficit budget is not allowed.

Next year, she said, if the district takes no action there truly will be a $300,000 deficit because there’s no more fund balance to carry over.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Osborne distributed a list of proposed cuts to board members at a committee meeting laying out his plan for attacking the deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

Meetings will be scheduled with staff members and community members to discuss the cuts. Osborne expects board action to occur at the Feb. 4 meeting.

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