Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Board hears Cheney schools’ good fiscal year


The Cheney School Board road show stopped by Salnave Elementary School last Wednesday, Nov. 14.

In a move away from the usual meetings held at the Fisher Administration Building, those in attendance in the Salnave library got to see bright young students do a presentation of song and dance as well as get good news on an overview of the district budget for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2012.

Third and fourth grade students from Salnave and under the leadership of teacher Heidi Hoblin performed for the board and guests with a presentation about use of art in the classroom. The performance was the culmination of a two-year project under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education.

The district’s chief financial officer, Brian Aiken, had plenty of good news for the board, as well as district patrons. He reported numbers concerning full time equivalent, or FTEs, as well as the overall general financial health of the district.

FTEs are the number that drives state funding with the district up six over October 2012 and 36 over the number originally budgeted. That means more state dollars funnel into the district. Current enrollment is 80 students ahead of November 2011, a total of 3,850.

“We seem to be in that 70-80 average per year,” Aiken told the board and a handful of guests. “It’s nice to be over budget than under budget.”

That goes hand in hand with better numbers than district officials had expected Aiken explained. “We were planning on a huge decrease,” he said, upwards of $2 million less last year than year before.

The budget of $26.7 million was based on 3,750 students Aiken said.

“We actually came in almost 100 student above that number which does drive both the funding form the state and federal funding sources,” he said. “On top of that our levy collection percentage came in higher than expected which doesn’t happen very often.”

A variety of other funding sources, including reimbursement for technology improvements and the success of grant applications allowed the district to come in at 98.7 percent of the projections.

The district was able to end the year with about $759,000 in reserves.

“On the expenditure side we were a little concerned about the loss of revenues, slowing of growth in enrollment, plus we were concerned about the federal funding cliff,” Aiken said. “When you receive $1.3 in federal funding and all of a sudden it was just gone, that’s the cliff they were talking about.”

A lot of those funds supported staffing, Aiken explained. “We were really careful budgeting for expenditures last year,” he said. “That meant not replacing 15 staff members due to attrition.”

Bond and capital levy funding sources were used to take pressure off the general fund, but in a legitimate way. “We were purchasing computers, software licenses and facility upgrades and those items and those things hit the general fund hard.”

Overall the current picture is almost identical to the year before at 84.33 percent compared to 2011-12 at 84.4 percent Aiken said. “Our salaries and benefits came right in line with the previous year.”

Expenditures for teaching and learning and teaching support are at 70.3 percent of the budget. That’s one of the few areas that Cheney School District seemed to be out of whack. The Washington legislature passed a law where districts have to be at 66.67 percent or higher and that shows the basic education money is being spent appropriately, Aiken said. “We’re over 70 percent against this year.”

By not replacing 7-8 teaching positions and with the loss of some classified positions, showed district-wide support expenditures – central administration, maintenance, utilities – fell from 14 percent to 13.9 percent.

“While our revenues were up at 98.7 percent our expenditures came in at just over 95 percent,” Aiken said.

So the difference means the district is going to see a small growth in fund balance.

“The end result was very good for us,” Aiken said.

Associate superintendent Sean Dotson reported on choicing in and out of Cheney schools. “We had more students choice out of the district than choice in,” he said.

A total of 341 choiced out, Dotson reported. “Some go to online learning and some to other districts. Choicing into our district, we had 141 students.” The largest district choicing in was Medical Lake, our closest neighbor and we trade some students each year.”

Besides routine and seamless approval of a number of agenda items, student board representative Sarah Oakes presented a PowerPoint on a variety of activities that have taken place at Cheney Middle School.

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