School District dependent upon levels of state funding

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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During its March 16 meeting, the Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees heard a presentation on the second of two Interim Reports made each school year detailing district budget expenditures made from November to Jan. 31.

Chief Business Officer Jonathan Feagle presented the Second Interim Report, described by the Board Agenda Item description as, “report(ing) actual expenditures and changes to the budget through Jan. 31 of the reporting year” which must “use multi-year projections to certify” whether the district will be able to “meet their financial obligations for current and two subsequent fiscal years” by certifying positive, qualified, or negative certification for meeting financial obligations. 

The staff report concluded that “the District’s Second Interim report demonstrates the District’s ability to meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent years.”

Feagle’s presentation covered several areas, which he summarized at the conclusion by noting “the district is highly dependant on levels of state funding…the district continues to monitor the use of one-time funds in order to ensure the base programs and operations do not become dependent on one time funds; the district reserve is adequate at the Second Interim, and we have a budget stabilization reserve in place to maintain the integrity of our programs if and when the state experiences an economic downturn” and that “the increase in restricted fund balance means we need to focus on using restricted funds first” as well as acknowledging the District Business Office team who compiled the report. 

Following his presentation, the Trustees provided some questions on the report.

Trustee Joedy Michael asked “is there a suggested percentage…of the budget reserved for uncertainties that we’re supposed to maintain” as well as asked about the stabilization reserve. 

Feagle answered that “three percent is the minimum required by the state of a district our size” and continued “the stabilization reserve…[includes] “five percent for economic uncertainties, that only needs to be three percent…and then the remaining balance of the fund gets put into the budget stabilization.”

Michael asked about how attendance and enrollment figures factored into the report’s calculations. “In your ADA (average daily attendance) and enrollment counts, are you considering factoring in the addition of TK (transitional kindergarten) or some of the demographic information that’s coming in…or will you just stick to what you know today instead of what we think we know about the future.”

Feagle acknowledged that question to be “a tough one” since regarding enrollment numbers “we’re projecting flat” and those attendance rate fluctuations brought about by COVID leave uncertainties that make predictions difficult. 

“Statewide, we’re really not sure where we’re going with this attendance yield on the enrollment that we have, it makes it a little more difficult to predict how much the additional enrollment that we might see, what effect that would have on the budget,” Feagle said. 

Feagle also noted that “the most recent demographic study that we have does suggest some growth, but it’s not extremely robust” saying “we might see 10 or 15” more students than last year’s enrollment. 

Regarding attendance, Michael asked if the Attendance Engagement Coordinator position the district created had been filled, which Superintendent Rody Boonchuoy said had yet to be filled but the application pool was being expanded to find more applicants.

Trustee Kristen Trott asked “with the deferred maintenance funds that we take out annually now, is that a good amount for our district” compared to other districts? Feagle said he could provide some statewide averages for districts Winters JUSD’s size, and that according to projections “our deferred maintenance need at this point is about $350,000 a year” which is the amount allocated by the fund. 

Board President Carrie Green expressed her appreciation for the work of Feagle and the Business Department in accommodating the “significant changes between the first and second interim, and I think that speaks volumes to your budgeting.”

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