Board of Ed

Oakland-Craig’s Board of Education votes to keep levy request down while increasing operating budget by 1.37%. Superintendent Jeff Smith, Board of Education President Gus Ray, and board members Terry Richards, Brett Johnson and Tim Magnusson listen to thoughts from other board members during Monday night’s meeting hearing.

It wasn’t easy to get there, but the Oakland-Craig Board of Education managed to keep the 2019-20 tax request comparable to 2018-19 while increasing overall operating budget by 1.37%.  This required a 10.36% cut in the special building fund.

Initially, the board hoped to keep the building fund close to last years request but a shortfall in the cash reserve projections caused them to step back.

 “I would say the best way to describe the cash reserve going down is in the attempt to keep the levy as low as possible last year we tried to under-spend our budget and didn’t fully account for the  timing of the tax receipts. 

The board has worked hard over the last several years, first with the help of Superintendent Joe Peitzmeier and now Smith to keep the levy down while building a cash reserve of 3-months operating expense. Roughly $1.5 million.  Having approached that goal, the board felt they would have about $1.7 at this time.  The fell short by a little of $300,00.  

“For the last 3 years we have kept the general fund levy as low as possible and it caught up with us this year. Hopefully trying to keep the levy low is not a negative thing but it is true we did not meet our goal of trying to keep our cash reserves even with the amounts of the previous year.  

Although the overall levy tax asking is up slightly the board was able to shave 3 cents off the building fund and shifted it to the general fund to help offset.

The board made it clear during their Monday night meeting that building the cash reserve as its highest priority.

“It is always hard to exactly predict future budgets as there are a lot of variables,” Smith said. “If all goes as planned we should come close to maintaining our current cash reserves next year and then start to build back up the following year.”

General operating expenses tend to increase by about 3% a year.  “The cost of labor makes up roughly 80% of our budget. As a result, with annual increases in salary, insurance, and the cost of doing business there is roughly a 3% increase each year,” Smith said.

Discussion on Monday concerned building cash reserve while moving forward with dirt work on newly acquired property.  Board members noted the need for continued fiscal responsibilities.

“The bottom line is that we set a bad number last year,” Board President Gus Ray said. “We need to get that fixed.”

Board Member Aaron Anderson cp,,emted pm all pf things the board approved last year with the thoughts that the cash reserve would increase rather than decrease.

Board Member Brett Johnson put it simply and succinctly, “We need to be more than mindful of our spending.”

With the purchase of 10 acres of land for development, the board hoped to be able to add significantly to the building fund.  That will take more time as cash reserve takes the front seat.

The district was able to several significant projects over the summer and maintain a significant special building fund.

The Independent will bring you more details on those projects and the current building fund balance soon.


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