District finances better than expected

School officials expect the district to end the year with a slightly higher surplus than predicted earlier this spring.

Secretary-treasurer Phil Turin said he expects the surplus at the end of this year will be about $2.8 million – up from the $2.3 million surplus predicted two months ago.

“A lot of that has to do with some spending that hasn’t happened because of teacher job action,” he said. “That’s still a very conservative number, but I would rather be low than go up.”

Turin said the district is in an unusual position this year because it received a funding protection grant, which ensured the district received the same amount in its operating budget as the previous year despite declining enrolment, funds were carefully managed throughout the year and spending on salaries, benefits and other costs is down because of the teacher job action.

Earlier this year, he forecast a budget shortfall of about $2.1 million for the 2013-14 school year.

The district is balancing next year’s budget with about $1.6 million of the surplus funds and trustees at the June 20 business committee meeting recommended the board approve two extra expenditures using some of the surplus.

The first is $72,000 to buy 12 automatic floor scrubbers, a recommendation coming out of the review of custodial services. The scrubbers are expected to speed up cleaning, reduce injuries and are more hygienic compared with a mop and bucket.

Another 12 scrubbers would be acquired in the 2013-14 budget so all schools would have the equipment.

The second added expense is $174,000 for technology upgrades, including software such as a virtual learning environment system, and network enhancement and expansion upgrades.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the technology upgrades give the district the infrastructure it needs to help students succeed in the 21st century.

“We’re thinking of our students, how they can be positioned to succeed in today’s world,” he said. “If you turn your back on technology, you’re handicapping your students.”

The next step is to buy the hardware to support the infrastructure upgrades that IT staff have been working on – a review conducted by IBM K-12 consultants last year recommends the district buy data projectors for each teacher, up to four desktop computers per classroom and mobile computer labs for each school.

The total cost of implementing the recommendations is about $3.8 million spread over five years.

Brennan said with one exception, parents attending the district’s strategic planning sessions believe student access to technology is important.