BCS continues to grow surplus

BALDWIN — Despite expecting to receive less total revenue and having more expenditures during the 2013-14 school year, Baldwin Community Schools has adopted a budget that is expected to continue to grow the district’s general fund surplus.

During the BCS Board of Education’s regular meeting on June 25, the board reviewed and adopted the 2013-14 original budget. Between the district’s total expected revenue and general fund balance, the budget states the district has a little more than $11 million available to appropriate. It also states, the district will spend approximately $7.8 million in the upcoming school year.

BCS Superintendent Stiles Simmons said it is not uncommon for the district to have a surplus in recent years. Although the board adopted a deficit budget before he took office as superintendent, the district actually ended with a surplus that year and it continues to grow.

“We have not asked our board, since then, to adopt a deficit budget,” Simmons said.

One of the reasons the district is doing well financially, when many throughout the state are not, is because BCS is an out-of-formula district, Simmons said. While most districts receive state on a per-pupil basis, BCS receives approximately 78 percent of its funding from a millage levied against non-homestead properties.

“When you have a situation where your local tax base generates revenue that exceeds the per-pupil amount, the state will not give you any money,” said David Forrester, BCS director of operations and business.

Still, BCS does receive some funding from the state through renaissance zones, state-owned properties and for other educational purposes.

Through revenue collected from local, state, federal and other sources, the district anticipates its total revenue will be down $895,834 for the upcoming school year — from $8.7 million during the 2012-13 school year to $7.8 million for 2013-14. However, the district expected the general fund balance would accumulate $964,626 by the end of June compared to the same time last year. With the added surplus and anticipated revenue, the district has slightly more money — $68,792 more than last year — to appropriate from.

Some of the loss in revenue can be attributed to less carryover and pass-through money from state, federal and other revenue sources, Forrester said. Other changes in revenue are ascribed to changes in employee retirement rates, health care and compensation.

As the district looks ahead to next school year’s expenditures, the biggest variances in the 2013-14 budget compared to the previous year are due to the hiring of new staff, Forrester explained during the meeting.

Despite having far less excess revenues over expenditures — $956,302 less than last year — the district anticipates adding $8,324 more to the general fund balance compared to the previous school year.

“I think most districts would kill for a surplus,” Simmons said.

In addition to the district being out-of-formula, Simmons credits Forrester with managing the district’s finances, good audits and the board’s responsible decisions to the financial health of the district.

Simmons also believes financial responsibility has helped elevate student achievement.

“The fact that we have the financial resources to support programs, to support personnel, it has directly affected student test scores,” Simmons said. “We are seeing that test scores in every level have increased in just the past year or two.”

The BCS Board of Education will meet again at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Baldwin Elementary School media center, located at 525 Fourth St. in Baldwin.