Lindbergh eyes possible ballot measure, OK of ’10-’11 budget

Without new revenue, Lindbergh’s reserves will drop to $12 million at end of 2011-2012.

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Lindbergh Board of Education was scheduled earlier this week to vote on whether to place a tax-rate increase on the November ballot and to consider adoption of the district’s 2010-2011 budget.

The Board of Education was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

As first reported by the Call, board members agreed by consensus during a recent budget workshop to vote Tuesday on whether to seek a tax-rate increase in the Nov. 2 election. While some board members indicated May 18 they had a potential amount they would consider asking voters to approve, they agreed to discuss and formulate the exact amount of any potential tax-rate increase at Tuesday’s meeting.

The board also will consider approval of an operating budget for the 2010-2011 school year that projects revenues of $53,892,275 with anticipated expenditures of $57,828,411 — a deficit of $3,936,136. The district will not go into the red, but will dip into its reserves, which total roughly $18.9 million, according to information presented to the board at the May 18 budget workshop.

During the workshop, Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane noted that much of the groundwork for the district’s proposed 2010-2011 budget had been laid in March when the board voted unanimously to give final approval to more than $4.7 million in reductions.

The board’s action eliminated 60 positions, including 45 teaching positions. But even with the $4.7 million in reductions, the school district still faces a nearly $4 million budget shortfall next year.

The district’s long-range financial plan calls for a spend down of its reserves with a deficit-spending cap of $3 million per year. In June 2009, the school board adopted a 2009-2010 operating budget that projected a deficit of $3 million.

That $3 million deficit was reached by making more than $2 million in reductions.

But a further decline in the assessed value of commercial real estate — including successful appeals by commercial property owners to the county Board of Equalization — coupled with cuts in state funding increased the projected budget deficit for the 2009-2010 school year to roughly $6 million.

While the majority of local taxing districts have rolled up their tax rates through the Hancock Amendment to regain lost property-tax revenue, Lindbergh was unable to roll up its operating tax rate, which currently remains at the state minimum of $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Final projected operating revenues for the 2009-2010 school year total $53,371,780 with anticipated expenditures of $59,377,022 — a deficit of $6,005,242.

Officials plan to further utilize district reserves to cover the in-creased deficit, and projections indicate those reserves will drop to roughly $18.9 million at the end of the current school year. If reserves fall below roughly $13 million, the district would have to borrow money to operate.

Without new revenue, that currently is projected to happen at the end of the 2011-2012 school year when the district’s reserves would drop to roughly $12 million, according to information Lanane presented to the board at the budget workshop.

For the coming school year, revenues are projected to decline by nearly $500,000 from the final 2009-2010 budget, which was already reduced during the school year by $1.3 million. That decline is due to projected state and federal reductions in the foundation formula, Parents as Teachers and various title programs.

Overall expenditures for the coming school year are projected to decrease by nearly $3.2 million from the 2009-2010 school year. The 2010-2011 budget includes a 1-percent salary increase for all employees.

The more than $4.7 million in budget reductions approved by the board in March were premised on the possibility of a 2-percent salary increase, but the amount of the pay raise would be determined based on the outcome of negotiations between the Board of Education and Lindbergh National Education Association teachers.

By agreeing to a 1-percent pay increase, LNEA teachers sacrificed taking home more money in exchange for allowing six full-time classroom teaching positions — a total of seven teachers — to be reinstated. While the district will continue to pay the cost of insurance for employees, premiums for spouse and family coverage will increase by 4.5 percent in January.

In addition, teachers’ contributions to the Missouri Public School Retirement System will increase to 14 percent of their salary from 13.5 percent. The district is required to match that contribution to the state retirement system.