Land Sale Should Help Saline Area Schools Avoid Deficit

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 02/15/2019 - 01:10
Miranda Owsley, Saline Area Schools assistant superintendent for finance, addresses the Board of Education Tuesday.

The Saline Area Schools Board of Education mulled over its financial circumstances at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting after receiving a budget presentation from Assistant Superintendent for Finance Miranda Owsley.

While the numbers presented looked positive with a projected budget surplus of $663,543, that figure is due to a one-time sale of school district land for $808,882.

Without that one-time line item on the books, the district's financials result in a $145,000 operating deficit for 2018-19. That number could still be the final figure on the final budget the district will adopt and send to the State of Michigan by the statutory end of the fiscal year on June 30, according to Owsley.

"That's not going to happen every year," said Board Trustee Dennis Valenti, who serves on the district's Finance Committee. 

Valenti warned that the district has operated over the past two fiscal years with a $550,000 deficit and "can't keep going like that."

"We don't have a lot of room in this budget," he warned before later in the meeting reporting that the Finance Committee would be looking at getting preliminary pricing for other providers of property and liability insurance in order to trim budget expenditures as much as possible.

Trustee Jennifer Steben said she would like to see more historical data on the district's fund balance growth in future reports from the administration.

The final 2017-18 fund balance landed at $2,898,369 or 5.87 percent of the budget. 

The original projected fund balance for 2018-19 in the preliminary budget passed last year was $3,327,932 or 6.88 percent. That figure firmed up to $3,561,912 in the amended 2018-19 budget adopted unanimously last night, but percentage-wise it was a decrease to 6.39 percent even with the land sale included on the books.

The amended budget saw total revenues firm up to $63,778,968 from $61,515,786 in the preliminary budget, but total expenditures also rose to $63,115,425 from $61,139,264 as the year's revenue actually started to trickle into district coffers and expenses have gone from projections to actual payouts to employees, programs, and vendors.

Steben also said she would like to see the district address its fund balance, which is well below the 15 percent rainy day guideline that all Michigan school district and local governments aim for as an ideal unrestricted fund balance threshold for dealing with a crisis.

Saline Area Schools are well below where other Washtenaw County schools districts are at, she said.

Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded and and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.