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First glimpse at ConVal budget

Following tense 2013 vote, district takes different approach with proposed increase of 1 percent

Voters in the ConVal School District could be looking at a proposed budget increase of 1 percent or less for 2014-2015, although the bottom line is still in flux as the School Board begins evaluation of a budget proposal.

Board members met Saturday for their initial budget work session, the first step in putting together a budget to go before voters in February’s deliberative session. Last year, the ConVal administration’s initial fully funded budget proposal called for an increase of nearly 5 percent to fund a number of new projects. That proposal was eventually cut in half through elimination of nine positions, deferring maintenance items and holding off on technology upgrades and curriculum development. This year, under the guidance of the district’s new superintendent, Brendan Minnihan, a different approach is being taken.

“We were asked to give a baseline budget,” Minnihan said on Monday. “We have some wish list items in the budget, but they’re not large. You always try to be reasonable. I think people put in a lot of work on this budget. It meets our needs and isn’t over the top.”

According to Business Administrator Marion Alese, the district will be budgeting for a 0.4 percent decrease in health insurance costs next year. Alese said Monday that the district always budgets based on a guaranteed maximum rate provided by the Local Government Center, which provides the district’s health insurance. That number went down this year, due partly to lower usage, Alese said. The district’s insurance costs will also drop because contributions from employees for health insurance will go up from 7.5 percent to 9 percent, under the terms of the district’s contract with the ConVal Education Association, the union that represents teachers and paraprofessionals. That contract is entering its fourth and final year, Alese said.

Salaries overall are expected to increase about 1.4 percent. The merit pool for administrators will be 3 percent and the proposal calls for a 3 percent wage increase for staff not covered by the union agreement.

The district’s transportation contract costs will rise by about $60,000, a 3.5 percent increase, while bond payments will drop by $26,637.

Alese said the district is likely to see a decrease in state adequacy aid revenue.

“Adequacy aid is based on enrollment,” she said. “Our initial projection looks like we’re going to lose about 75 students. That would mean about $250,000 less in adequacy aid.”

Alese said last year’s budget included funding to rent modular classroom units at the high school and install a new phone system in the district. The modular units are no longer needed, as the students using them have been absorbed into the high school, and the phone installation is complete. Dropping those costs from the budget, along with the savings on health insurance, resulted in a reduction of appropriations by about $400,000, Alese said.

The proposed budget does not include funding for repairs to the ConVal parking lot. Alese said that project, which is expected to cost around $550,000, will probably be presented as a separate warrant article at the district meeting.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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