Lindbergh Board of Education members to discuss district’s finances at workshop session

Enrollment growth impacting district’s finances, CFO says

By Mike Anthony

The Lindbergh Board of Education will focus on the school district’s finances during a workshop session Saturday morning.

The special workshop session will begin at 8 a.m. in the Professional Development Rooms of the Administration Building, 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

Board members will focus on a revised budget for the 2011-2012 school year and begin preliminary discussions on the 2012-2013 budget, according to Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane.

Lanane anticipates the district will end the current school year in the black, but aggressive enrollment growth will challenge the district’s finances for the 2012-2013 school year, Lanane said.

Board members voted in June to approve a 2011-2012 operating budget that projects revenue of $60,812,763 with anticipated expenditures of $59,435,504 — a surplus of $1,377,259.

A 65-cent tax-rate increase approved by Lindbergh voters in November 2010 is projected to generate nearly $8.4 million for the current school year.

Revenue from Prop L allowed the board to approve a balanced budget for the first time since 2002.

The 2011-2012 budget includes a two-year salary schedule for teachers that provides an average annual increase of 2.8 percent.

The schedule provides teachers with a 3.87-percent salary increase for the 2011-2012 school year and a 1.78-percent pay raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

Under the approved agreement with the Lindbergh National Education Association, the increase in total compensation — salary, insurance and retirement benefits — will be 4.54 percent for the 2011-2012 school year.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the increase in total compensation will amount to 2.27 percent.

In his 2011-2012 budget message, Lanane wrote: “While this budget reflects a surplus of $1.3 million, salary and benefit commitments have already been made for ’12-’13 that will match this surplus and revenues are not expected to change significantly in ’12-’13 as reassessment will not occur again until 2013.”

Regarding the revised 2011-2012 budget, he told the Call, “We’ll still be in the black because we’re fine revenue-wise this year, but going into next year knowing that we’ve got the 1.78-percent (salary) increase and a couple of other things we already know about and probably some more enrollment, we’re going to have to find a way to reduce our budget … We’re probably just going to hold the line on materials and some things like that …”

Board members will discuss the revised budget during Saturday’s workshop session and then consider formal approval of it on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

That revised 2011-2012 budget then becomes the starting point for discussions about the 2012-2013 budget, Lanane said.

Right now, roughly $800,000 needs to be trimmed for the coming school year.

“Well, I don’t like that starting place,” he said, “and so we’re going to reduce the ’12-’13 budget so that we like where we’re headed on that because we’ve got to finish ’12-’13 in the black. Pat Lanane will not be a happy person if that doesn’t happen …”

At the annual Board of Education/Lindbergh National Education Association dialogue session that took place Jan. 24, Lanane said Lindbergh Schools is emerging from “the darkest financial period” in the district’s history, but recovery will continue to be slow.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, the district has sustained a cumulative loss of revenue totaling $18 million, according to the CFO.

“It’s a little lighter, but we’re not reading without a lamp over us yet,” he told the Call. “It’s still pretty dark and it (the recovery) is going to be slow. With the increased enrollment, it’s going to crunch us, and that’s OK. We can deal with this … Times aren’t getting any better and we’ve got more kids — grab that belt and grab it another cinch. That’s what we’re talking about here.”

The school district’s aggressive enrollment growth continues to impact the district’s finances, Lanane said.

“The real wild card that we’ll watch as we go into next year is just how many new students show up. That does have the ability to bust our budget. But we have no control over it,” he said.

Though the district is phasing out its participation in the voluntary transfer program, local enrollment is surging. The district’s current enrollment of nearly 6,000 students is the most since the 1981-1982 school year when 6,111 were enrolled.

And that trend will continue, Lanane said.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, the district’s enrollment has increased by 587 local students, he said.

With the loss of transfer students, the net enrollment increase is 210 local students.

The loss of transfer students has resulted in a decrease of $1.2 million in revenue for Lindbergh.