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School board approves $1.44 billion tentative budget

August 2, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Lee County School Board approved a tentative budget earlier this week of $1.44 billion dollars, a reduction from the previous budget of $1.5 billion.

"I am satisfied with the tentative budget, especially considering the reduction in revenue resources across the board," Board Member Mary Fischer said.

The tentative budget includes $876,666,082 in the general operating budget; $115,484,050 in the special revenue budget; $63,931,247 in the debt service budget; $256,263,553 in the capital outlay budget and $131,370,559 in the internal service budget.

"We are in a position where we are going to continue to have to do more with less," Chief Financial Officer Greg Blurton said in a prepared statement. "We must decrease expenditures to balance our budget."

Fischer said for this coming year, the general fund is lower, as is the capital fund.

"We have received some Certificates of Participation, which lower the balance," she said.

In addition, the property tax millage rate, which is used to calculate the state and local funding for the district, has decreased 1.35 percent. The decline in the tax rate results in $5 million less in local contributions than last year.

"The $5 million less we received this year would have been enough for a 1% raise for every one of our employees," Blurton said in a prepared statement.

The tentative millage levy for prior period funding adjustment is 4.153 with a $342,377,034 proposed amount to be raised, the basic discretionary operating tentative millage levy is 0.748 with $61,665,789 proposed amount to be raised and capital outlay tentative millage levy is 1.500 with a proposed $123,661,342 amount to be raised.

To balance the budget, the district looked into such areas as transportation. Fischer said they saved more than $1 million in transportation costs by reducing the number of bus routes from 766 to 718, purchasing new buses at a cost saving. She explained that the upkeep on a new bus is $2,000, compared to $8,000 on older buses.

Other areas where the district found cost savings was reevaluating staffing levels and eliminating vacant positions.

"Vacant positions at the district office were eliminated and duties redistributed," Fischer said.

An area that was affected substantially was the district's reserves and fund balance going into the next budget. Hurricane Irma left a trail of $31 million in damages to the district's facilities.

"Reserves were used to fund necessary repairs and cleanup, which were result of Hurricane Irma," Fischer said.

The district expects to be partially reimbursed for damages through insurance and FEMA, which, unfortunately, could be many more months, if not years.

"When you combine that with our minimal increase in funding from the State, and the rising cost of healthcare, we took a substantial hit to our reserves and fund balance going forward and expect the FY19 Budget to be stressed in all areas," Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said in a prepared statement.

The final approval of the budget will be done at the Sept. 11 meeting.



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