Brandywine school board talks budgets, finances

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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NILES — Budgets and finances were the main topics of discussion at Monday’s Brandywine Board of Education meeting. Members held a budget hearing on the final amended 2023-24 budget as well as the proposed 24-25 budget before approving both during their meeting.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations Ray Wilburn provided information on not only the budgets but also the millage rates being levied this year by the district. He said the district prepares budgets to inform people about its plans and also to show transparency.

With millage levies that the board approved earlier this month, he said the district is levying 18 mills on non-homestead commercial and second home properties as well as 3.9 mills for debt service and one mill for the sinking fund. He noted that the debt service millage has decreased over the years as bonds are paid back.

When asked how Brandywine’s debt millage compares to other districts, Wilburn said Brandywine’s is “definitely lower than most”.  He also said that the sinking fund pays for more basic maintenance and repair projects such as fixing roofs and other items.

With the district budgets, he said the district continues to have a healthy fund balance and is a good steward of taxpayer dollars. He added that the district has enough cash flow so that it can operate in the three months when state aid doesn’t come in without borrowing funds.

He said his philosophy when it comes to budgeting is to be conservative. “We don’t account for revenue until we know we’re receiving it but we do budget for expected expenditures so if there is a surprise it will be a positive surprise and not a negative surprise,” he said.

He first went over the final budget amendment for the 2023-24 fiscal year that ends June 30. General fund revenue is now $18.960 million while expenditures are at $19.228 million. He said the $268,000 deficit will leave the district with a fund balance of $3.68 million which represents 19.15 percent of expenditures.

“That is a healthy fund balance and is far from the 10 percent rate where the state comes in,” he said.

With the proposed new budget, he’s anticipating $17.468 million in revenue and $17.78 million in expenditures for a deficit of $296,502. He said the fund balance would be $3.386 million which represents 19 percent of expenditures.

Wilburn noted that he actually doesn’t expect to end the 2024-25 year with a deficit. “I don’t expect at this point to have expenditures in excess of revenue but I think it’s going to be very, very close,” he said. “I can’t count revenues we are not absolutely sure of and we won’t know those levels until the first budget amendment this fall.”

The district’s food service budget is also in good shape with the district having a small surplus for the 2023-24 year and a small deficit in the 2024-25 year. “The goal here is different, the goal is to spend all the money, we never want to really accumulate a fund balance,” he said.

In addition to approving the amended and new budgets during the regular meeting, board members took action on items related to the new $22 million bond issue projects approved by voters in May.

The board approved contracts with Carmi Design Group for architectural services and with the Christman Company for construction management services for the new bond projects. The Carmi contract is for $1.53 million and the Christman contract is for $2.03 million.

Superintendent Travis Walker noted earlier this month that both companies worked for the district at no fee during the development of the bond proposal and would not have charged anything if the bond had not passed.

Voters approved a $22 million bond issue proposal in May to pay for several facility improvement projects in the district including new CTE and performing arts additions at the middle/high school and a new gym addition at Merritt Elementary. Work will be done in two phases starting next spring.

Board members also approved a new board committee structure at Monday’s meeting. Board President Elaine McKee said earlier this month that the goal is to get board members more involved by having liaisons to district committees and councils so that members can be better informed when they make decisions.

Board members did not make the actual liaison appointments to the different committees and councils yet. Members agreed to not make those decisions until the board is back to full strength with the appointment of a new board member. Member Angela Seastrom resigned June 14 as she is moving from the district.

Board members also accepted a $20,000 donation from the Brandywine Education Foundation for the purchase of new weights, bars and other equipment for the middle/high school weight room.