RANCHESTER — The Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees approved a $20.9 million budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year at its regularly scheduled meeting last night.
“It has been basically flat for the last couple years,” SCSD 1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said. “The one thing that concerns us long-term is the decline of federal dollars. Our federal support has gone down significantly over the years. Our Title I grants, Title II A and VI B grants continue to decline. We’ll be offering less of those services in the future because there is not enough in the general fund to make it up.”
Smith explained that Title I money covers reading and math assistance for identified kids in lower socioeconomic schools. Title II A funds are for professional development for teachers and Title VI B is the federal support for special education.
“We are seeing reductions because of sequestration, and also, particularly in Title I, because our district’s socioeconomic status continues to improve so we get less of those funds,” he explained.
Although some reduction in future federal funding is of concern, Smith said a more immediate financial impact to the district has been a reduction in state funds to help pay for staff health insurance premiums and keeping salaries at last year’s level.
“The only hard thing for us is we aren’t able to offer raises to staff this year and we had to reduce money for health insurance premiums,” Smith said in a phone interview with The Sheridan Press. “That is pretty painful. We are not pleased about that at all. But it is not all gloom and doom. The board is doing what it can given the financial resources it has available. We are glad we’ve been able to do the great programming we have for kids, but we did have to be tight on our budget for salaries and expenses this year.”
Smith said that because the state school funding model ties the amount of money available to districts for health insurance premiums to the amount that the state is paying for state employees, the district lost some money and had to pass that cost on to teachers and staff.
“This year the state reduced its help to state employees and that flows through to us,” Smith said.
Staff members will now pay an additional $50 per month, or $600 per year, for their health insurance.
In other business, Superintendent Marty Kobza reported to the board that he and Smith had attended a recent School Facilities Commission meeting and that construction of a new Tongue River Elementary School building is moving forward. It is expected that construction of a new school will begin in the spring of 2014.
The board also heard a presentation from Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young about the upcoming bond measure for renovation and expansion of the college’s tech center and discussed costs for iPad insurance. For the second year, district students in grades six through eight were issued iPad computers. Because the computers can be damaged or lost, just as traditional textbooks can be damaged or lost, the district is evaluating how to assess insurance charges to cover costs for repair or replacement as the program moves forward.