|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - August 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
School board eyes deficit
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – Although the numbers are gradually improving, the Trinity School Board is still looking for cuts to balance the upcoming budget for the 2010-2011 school years. During a budget workshop held Monday, July 26, the board reviewed the preliminary budget with Business Manager Kevin Parrish. No action was taken by the board during the session and they are scheduled to conduct one more workshop on Aug. 23 before approving the budget. During the meeting Monday, the board learned that the preliminary general fund budget, which is expected to be around $8.8 million during the coming year, currently shows a deficit of about $28,000. Parrish warned that that deficit would be higher, depending upon how much money would have to be transferred from the school district’s general fund into its food service account. He noted that at present, the food service deficit appears to be about $54,000. “That figure could be higher or lower depending upon what we decide to do,” Parrish told the board, noting that increasing the price of breakfasts and lunches may be an option that the board may want to address. “What ever the deficit is in the cafeteria, we will need to transfer that amount over from the general fund,” he added. Work on the new budget, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, is being complicated by uncertainty in the amount of state funds that will be available during the coming school year. The state, faced with a $20 billion deficit, is expected to reduce its contributions to schools and Trinity officials are bracing for an almost $300,000 drop in their allocation for the coming year. Local school districts also are expecting state money to be slow in coming, if not delayed for months. This will force them to rely heavily on their reserves to keep the schools in operation. To overcome the loss of state money, Parrish and other school officials have been seeking ways to cut spending, including reducing the number of staff members on the payroll. No plans to lay off employees have even been suggested, but the district may not replace some personnel who have resigned or retired. In discussing the deficit and possible solutions in the cafeteria funds, Parrish noted that it is normal for the district to have to cover that account with money from the general fund. He said the preliminary $54,000 figure is much less than in the past, adding that in the 2008-2009 school year, the district transferred $128,000 from the general fund. In discussing ways to reduce the cafeteria deficit, Parrish noted that the board may need to consider raising the cost of meals. At present, the student fee for breakfast is $1. Lunches at Lansberry elementary and Trinity intermediate schools cost students $1.75 while at Trinity middle and Trinity high schools, the cost is $2.25. “For every five cents that the meals are increased, we will increase revenue by about $1.300,” Parrish said. Parrish added that for each free or reduced cost meal served to qualified low income students, the federal government reimburses the district $1.48 for breakfast and $2.74 for lunch. One suggestion offered by Parrish would be to create a pilot Universal Free Breakfast Program at Lansberry elementary. He explained that under this program, all students at the school would be provided with a free breakfast. While the district would lose the $1 collected from students who do not qualify for free or reduced cost meals, Parrish said this loss could be more than offset by increasing the number of students who do qualify. He noted that not all students who qualify for the free or reduced cost meals eat breakfast at the school. Other schools that have implemented the Universal Free Breakfast Program have seen significant increases in their federal reimbursement. “We could try this as a pilot program for two or three months to see how it works. If we don’t see a gain, we can always go back to the way it is now,” Parrish told the board. During their discussion about the general fund deficit, the board keyed on possibly cutting or combining some of its 14 bus routes to held reduce costs. They noted that they are scheduled to spend about $88,000 on a new bus and if the routes could be reduced, they may be able to postpone that purchase for at least a year. The board was told that there are a number of problems that would have to be worked out but that it would be possible to design bus routes that would eliminate the need for the new bus. Other business Following the budget workshop, the school board conducted their regular July business session. During that relatively brief meeting, the board: • Voted 4-3 to hire Belt Harris Pechacek to conduct the annual audit of the district’s 2009-2010 finances. The vote was split with three board members, Bill Weaver, Gary Gallant and Maggie Trevino, indicating they favored hiring the accounting firm of Axle and Rhode. Belt Harris Pechacek’s accountants are based out of Bellville and will conduct the audit for a fee of $18,500. Axle and Rhode, based out of Lufkin, proposed to do it for $15,000. Noting that both firms are very qualified, Parrish recommended Belt Harris Pechacek because their experience with schools in the Region VI Education Service Center territory. He noted the firm currently audits half of the schools in Region VI, including service center in Huntsville. Weaver, Gallant and Trevino indicated they favored Axle and Rhode due to the small fee. • Gave their approval to plans to renovate two science labs at a cost of about $24,000. Interim Superintendent Jake Sherman said that work could be completed before school begins on Aug. 23. • Approved the 2010-2011 student handbook with a provision that the policy on the use of cell phones be revised. David Plymale has been designated as the lone finalist for the job of superintendent and is expected to be formally hired on Aug. 10. The board wanted him to create a policy that could be enforced that would prohibit the use of cell phones during the school day but would allow students to use them at athletic and other school events.