July 4, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 11

Cheney district enacts emergency financial measures

Faced with financial uncertainties due to the lack of a state budget the Cheney School Board enacted three resolutions at its June 26 meeting designed to keep the district operating until state funding for the 2013-15 biennium comes through.

The first resolution declared the existence of a financial state of emergency for school years 2013-14 and 2014-15 and directed Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens to develop and recommend a modified education program to deal with the emergency. The modified program could include reduction of expenses as well as transfers or reassignments of staff and reductions in non-employee costs.

The second resolution dealt with the modified education program itself by utilizing the district’s designated reserves to cover an expected $1.482 million shortfall in the coming school year while giving Clemens authority to spend reserves down to a level of 3 percent from the current recommended 5 percent. The third resolution suspended the district’s restriction to maintain a 5 percent reserve fund balance.

The last time the board took similar actions was April 2011 when state legislators were again struggling to come to an agreement on the general fund budget. This time the district is faced with additional costs associated with two new school buildings, the nearly one-year-old Westwood Middle School and the soon to open Snowdon Elementary School.

“All that puts additional pressures on our finances,” Clemens told the board.

“Without a final budget from the state we’re just sitting tight,” district finance and operations executive director Brian Aiken added.

Legislators have since passed a final $33.6 billion operating budget that includes a reported $1 billion additional money for K-12 education. Assistant superintendent Sean Dotson said Monday that the district will keep the emergency measures in place, particularly given the expected budgeting situation with the new schools, in order to have more flexibility.

In other business the board approved adoption of curriculum for the district’s counseling staff as well as P-5 intervention program recommendations. A second regular meeting in August was agreed to for Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Fisher Building.

Five other resolutions were approved concerning designating authority to who can sign such items as audits, investing funds and the handling of federal programs. The resolutions were needed because of the resignation of Aiken, who is stepping down after six years with the district to become the assistant superintendent for operations at the East Valley School District.

Finally the board agreed to retain Myers-Stevens & Toohey & Co., Inc. as the student accident insurance provider for the 2013-14 school year. The company has been providing this insurance for the past 11 years, although Mount asked Dotson if the district couldn’t do a little “shopping” next year to see if there were better options for students not covered by the plan.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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