Jacksonville School District 117 is about halfway through its budget year.
There is a concern that revenue projections will give the district a high fund balance at the end of the fiscal year.
District Treasurer Richard Cunningham says that the general fund balance is up due to a combination of local sales tax receipts are up and the receipt of annual property tax payment from the county in July: “We had local revenues that were received that were $727,000. $500,000 of that total was retiree insurance payments, which is money that gets paid to us but is going out. State revenues, we got $1.3 million. That was mainly Evidence-Based Funding (EBF), and federal revenues, which was mostly Title money was about $400,000. We are, at this point, up about $6.8 million from this time last year.”
Superintendent Steve Ptacek says he immediately got together with Cunningham and began investigating the reason why the fund balance number was so high in comparison to last year: “I got that number and I immediately called Rick and said ‘How on earth are we $6.8 million up?’ We were talking about a year where we really figuring on this year to lose money, but we understood with the payouts to the staff for the buyouts for the health insurance and everything else. We went into it in detail and just between our CPPRT difference, and also we are well under expenditures from last year.”
Many of last year’s expenditures at this time in the school district’s fiscal year included the Bowl’s roof replacement, the paving of the Early Years’ parking lot, and roof projects at both Eisenhower and North Elementary. Those one-time costs were not apart of this year’s budget for capital improvements or life, health, and safety budgets.
Ptacek says ESSER funding was also not a part of the equation in the budget because the district is doing the work on qualifying projects or making the purchases and then, the district gets reimbursed: “So, if we are looking at a month where last year we had spent ESSER money but we hadn’t yet received the check in, the expenditures out of that were taken out of last year’s budget at this point in time and then, we got the money coming in. There’s more money coming in now this year already about some items we’ve already spent for. We looked through this in detail. We were able to come up with, out of $6.8 million about $5.8 million-worth of differences. When I look at the budget report, we are are at 42% of the budget year and we have only had 38% of our expenditures but we have 70% of our expected revenues in. It really is getting once again between CPPRT, increased EBF, our property tax coming in, and there is still another $2 million worth of property tax coming in at the end of December. That number on total revenues is going to be much greater than 100% most likely.”
Ptacek says with the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) revenues and the local 1% sales tax seeing significant jumps, the district is in a good place financially and has a good problem with projections trending upward. Ptaceck cautions, however, that the district now has to find a balance of what is a permanent, sustainable revenue stream and what is simply a temporary or one-time bump: “The toughest thing is to determine is if the money is a one-time revenue or is sustained, repeatable revenue. The reason why we have been in such good financial position over the years is we have committed to the philosophy that you never use one-time revenue for sustained expenses. So we have to really do an analysis of this money that’s up above to see if this is one-time revenue or sustained revenue because that comes into play on how much we can increase salaries. We have a desire still to increase salaries as much as possible. That’s how you’re winning the game of competition for limited staff. That’s your maintaining staff. That’s how your keeping the staff. Before I can go into negotiations for next year and beyond and start talking about we have all this great fund balance, we need to determine how much of it might go away like CPPRT.”
Ptacek also would not rule out the possibility of doing renovations at another school in the district if things continue to trend in the positive. However, he was not willing to commit to that idea at this time saying more research and good trends must continue before that idea could be broached.
In the meantime, Ptacek says the district will continue to monitor month-to-month the district’s revenue streams to ensure proper budgeting and fiscal responsibility continues to be maintained.