Budget drops for Soroco | SteamboatToday.com

Budget drops for Soroco

South Routt School District's finances firm despite 20 percent dip

Zach Fridell

The South Routt School District’s budget for the 2008-09 year shows a drop of 20 percent from the previous year, but the situation isn’t as dire as it looks, auditor Matthew Scoggins said Thursday.

With the completion of the heating projects that saw the district switch from coal heat to geothermal and biomass heating systems, and construction of the South Routt Early Learning Center, the district’s expenses dropped almost as swiftly as income.

Even so, the district was forced to make a 15 percent cut across the board on items that are under administrative control, including supplies and discretionary spending.

Scoggins, from Colorado CPA Services, told the South Routt School Board the district received a clean audit for the 2007-08 school year as the district moved forward. At the meeting Thursday night, the School Board adopted the district’s finalized budget for next year.

Board President Tim Corrigan asked Scoggins if the district is on firm financial footing.

“Would we like to have deeper pockets? Of course,” Scoggins said, speaking collectively for the district. “We’re always going to have to be at attention when our fund budget is where it’s at.”

The beginning fund balance for the district was at $339,344 for the year, an amount that would not have covered the district expenses for November.

Superintendent Scott Mader compared the district’s budget to a personal finance sheet.

“I always go back to my own budget. If I didn’t have a job for a couple months, I’d like to have something built. The same is true for the district,” he said.

Board members agreed the district should conserve funds to build up the fund balance.

That could mean postponing renovations to the old gym in Soroco High School. Years of coal heating have left soot visible throughout the aging gym – including on some of the athletic championship banners – so district officials, facing this year’s tight budget, asked the Education Fund Board for money to help with renovations. Along with a renewal of Steamboat Springs’ half-cent sales tax for education, voters in November approved the sharing of sales tax revenues, administered by the Fund Board, with Hayden and South Routt school districts.

Hayden and South Routt school officials have begun meeting with the Fund Board to present funding requests. The Fund Board did not approve South Routt’s request for gym funding, however, on grounds that such repairs are regular maintenance that the South Routt district should fund through its own budget, not the Fund Board.

Such an expense could be tough for the district to afford in 2009.

The South Routt district also has been hit by the recent increases in cost for water and electricity that have affected all Oak Creek residents. Mader said the school will be paying an additional $1,000 a month in utilities because of the changes.

“It’s a tight budget, but the good news is we haven’t had to reduce staff,” Corrigan said.

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