Luther Superintendent Sheldon Buxton told his School Board Monday night that the October 1, 2016, official enrollment count for the 2016-17 school year stands at 798 students.
That is 88 students fewer than last year’s number and way down from the district high number of 980 students two years ago.
Dr. Buxton said the number will affect state funding for next school year by $137,250.
“I would like to paint a better picture but that is reality. We are down significantly,” said Dr. Buxton.
As the General Fund balance dwindles for the remainder of the calendar year, the Board voted 3 – 2 to approve a “Non-Payable Warrants” Resolution to allow the district to dip into their other funds – Sinking Fund, Child Nutrition and Building Fund to pay bills until ad valorem (property taxes) start rolling in toward December.
“Do we borrow from ourselves, or the bank? Either way, we have to do it and if we borrow from ourselves, we reduce the interest payments,” said Dr. Buxton while the board discussed the resolution at length.
Sherri Anderson said it was prudent to approve the resolution to avoid interest payments that might be incurred if the district needs to lean on the bank to get bills paid until funding comes in. However, both Charles DeFuria and Steve Broudy questioned the lack of details in the resolution – such as how much would the other funds be drained, and what the guarantee would be that the district will be able to pay itself back with the ad valorem and state aid (with state aid likely to dip again).
“How can you be confident we’ll replenish those funds?” said Broudy also asking what the parameters and limits would be.
DeFuria also asked about the agreement with the Luther bank over how much interest might be charged if loans are needed. Dr. Buxton said he had word from Bank President and School Treasurer Gary Roy that the rate would be under five percent.
Roy’s Treasurer’s Report showed the district’s total cash availability is $321,337 in all accounts. The district spends about $300,000 a month in payroll and more than $50,000 each month in other expenses.
DeFuria said the issue reflects a greater concern he has over the district not doing enough to stop spending during this difficult financial time. For example, he said the board should not agree to pay claims as a whole without considering them line by line. DeFuria regularly votes no on the claims reports at the beginning of meetings. This month’s claims were $93,444.
Last school year, the board imposed a Reduction in Force program and other counts amounting to nearly $1 million. At the beginning of the meeting during the “Public Participation Forum,” resident Jane Martin called for a spending freeze. She also asked for a report on savings from the new shortened school year plan and other reductions. “When will this district be solvent again?” she asked.
Both DeFuria and Broudy voted no on the Non-Payable Warrants Resolution, with President Matt Mohr, Ray Stanfield and Anderson voting for it.
In other news, the board voted to spend $6,408 (after the property tax money comes in) to install hand dryers in the PreK building, elementary school and middle school. The switch away from paper towels will save the district money over time since the district used 56 cases of paper towels the first three weeks of school, or about 533 towels a day!
Also, in New Business, Dr. Buxton said he forgot to include an agenda item to correct a mistake from September in which the wrong counseling service was listed for contract approval. He said his omission didn’t reflect any ill intent and next month the agenda item will be included to approve A Bright Tomorrow’s arrangement to provide services to students.
The meeting began with a moment of silence to honor Mr. Jacob Boydston whose funeral is Tuesday. He served Luther schools for 23 years in the maintenance department before retiring, and many more years driving Bus Number 3.