Thursday, July 30, 2015

Center Schools begin year with positive financial outlook

By Mary Wilson


The Center School Board received a quarterly financial report, summarizing the fiscal year of 2014-2015, at the regular meeting on Monday, July 27. Leading up to the report presented by Director of Business Dr. Michael Weishaar, the board of education has kept an eye on the budget given the current fiscal climate.

“We’ve had a lot happen in the last four or five weeks, good and bad,” said Weishaar.

Near the end of June 2015, the district received notification from Jackson County regarding protests to property taxes of approximately $300,000. For the year, Center School District received a hit of $900,000 total in protests.

“We have begun our talks to find out what we can do, if anything, to forecast this a little better going forward,” said Weishaar. “Some of those protests to taxes have gone back to 2012.”

Despite the nearly-million-dollar hit, the district completed the year at negative $1.1 million, a decrease of $500,000 from the prior year. Coincidentally, the proposal for the 2014-2015 budget was right on target with where the district ended up.

“Keeping in mind, six or seven months ago, we thought we’d be at $1.6 or $1.7 million deficit,” said Weishaar, “the conservative aspect we took all year certainly showed. We could have been under one-million dollars had we not been hit with the protests again.”

With the negative $1.1 million, the district’s reserves began the next fiscal year at 25%. Last month, the board of education approved a budget of negative $380,000.

“We’ve got some challenges and we need to be conservative again,” said Weishaar. “We don’t have any contingency fund built into the protests to taxes, so any that come up this year will come off of that bottom line.”

Weishaar went on to say that he believes the past year was unique in the amount of protests to taxes the district received. To continue the good news, however, the county delivered preliminary assessed valuation for the district of $380 million, $11 million higher than last year and a 3.1% increase.

“I’ve always said, for every million dollar increase, it’s about $55,000,” said Weishaar. “When assessed valuation is down and starts to climb back up, you don’t necessarily gain what you lost when it was down. When it goes up a lot like it did, it forces you to drop your tax rate ceiling.”

With an $11 million increase, the district will see their tax rate dramatically decrease. The final assessed valuation numbers will be received from Jackson County in September. This is the first time in eight years the district has seen an increase in assessed valuation.

“It is time to celebrate. Bottom line, we ended the year with the $500,000 decrease,” said Weishaar. “Kudos to the staff, the teachers, and the directors for keeping an eye on every dollar we spend. We couldn’t have done it without the group effort.”

The board also heard a report from Lorenzo Boyd, Managing Director with Stifel Financial, bond underwriters for the district, regarding their bond financing outlook. The district will continue, with Stifel’s partnership, to look for ways to save on interest in bond financing going forward.

Also at the meeting, Elizabeth Heide, Director of Human Resources and Student Services, presented to the board a new program to help meet the needs of students in the district. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a concept developed by Dr. Tim Lewis, a professor at the University of Missouri, which helps the district to create interventions to increase student success.

“As we analyzed our data last year, we realized we needed to look into how we can reach more kids,” said Heide. “We need to find where the holes are with our kids.”

The district will partner with Dr. Lewis and his team of researchers to begin looking into the data and discovering ways to provide interventions in the learning and behavior patterns of students. There is no charge for the partnership, as Lewis will use the research garnered to grow the program.

The Center School Board meets monthly at Boone Elementary. The next regular meeting will be on Monday, August 24.

Editor’s Note: The Jackson County Advocate is proud to increase our coverage to include Center School District news and sports.

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