An increase in state funding for K-12 education allowed things to look brighter on the budget front for the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District for the 2014-15 school year.
The $400 million increase from the last legislative session placed the per-pupil funding at $350.34 more per student, or a 5.5 percent increase from a year ago. The new number will be at $6,661.45 per-pupil, compared to $6,311.11 in 2013-14, which equates to an increase of $1.5 million in revenue.
The total budget, which includes all funds within the Re-4 School District, is $62.9 million, a 5.77 percent increase or about $3.4 million more than last year’s budget.
The Re-4 school board unanimously approved the budget at its regular monthly meeting last Monday night.
In the general fund revenue, 51 percent comes from local sources, and 49 percent comes from the state. The general fund budget appropriation is $41.6 million.
“We’re about even as far as what our local taxpayers provide and what the state provides,” assistant superintendent Stephanie Watson said.
“It’s different for every district. It’s a matter of what your assessed value is and how much local taxes you can bring in.”
Over the past 10 years, though, the district’s funding has been lower than the state average by $375 per student. The increase in enrollment every year has helped the school district even though the district is at the floor, or minimum funding level for the state, with about 12 other districts out of 178 districts.
“In 2011, our funding was decreased by $250 per student,” Watson said. “In 2012, it was $321 (decrease). In 2013, it was level, and last year it was $170 (increase), or 2.77 percent. While we’re pleased with the increased in funding, there is also a ways to go to make up the negative factor that was implemented during those budget cuts. Our funding last year was $5.3 million lower than what it should have been. This next year it’s going to be $4.7 million. We’re still $4.7 million short of where our funding formula should be, but we’re very happy that we got a 5.5 percent funding increase as well. This was obviously a better experience than the years when we were cutting funds, but it was still difficult because trying to recover and come out of the cuts is difficult.”
Watson said that even with a 5.5 percent increase in per-pupil funding, the district is still lower than its funding in the 2010 fiscal year.
The five-year average enrollment growth is 4 percent, and the 10-year average is 4.8 percent. The growth projection for the upcoming school year from district demographer Denny Hill is at 2.9 percent, compared to 1.98 percent growth last year which was lower than the district anticipated. The district still had a record-number 4,539 students last year.
“We’re anticipating stronger growth this year, especially when you look at the number of building permits, housing starts and the local economy,” Watson said. “We think that will have a positive impact on our number of students.”
Other funds available for the district included $30,328 (retiree salary savings), $151,338 (growth carryover from 2013-14) and $566,223 (additional students in system estimated at 85 students).
Watson said no programs or teachers in the district had to be cut. Windsor High School added three new teachers because of the school’s growth, and there was a salary increase average of 5.5 percent for all staff. The average salary increase from last year was 4.35 percent.
“We do bring a revised budget in January (2015) because there are so many estimates as far as student count, assessed value, taxes and those type of things,” Watson said. “In January, we bring a revised budget that has those numbers finalized.”