July 25, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 14

School board adopts budget with increased revenues, expenses

Cheney School District board directors unanimously adopted a 2013-2014 budget at their July 17 meeting, a budget reflecting increases in revenues, expenses and enrollment and made more challenging by the inability of the state Legislature to pass its own operating budget until June 30, one day before the end of the state’s fiscal year and a possible, partial government shutdown.

The school board approved general fund expenses of more than $43.14 million, up $2.29 million or 5.62 percent over last year. The increase is a result of inflation affecting rising prices in fuel, food and instructional supplies, along with some increases among teacher salaries due to experience levels.

The district is also opening a new building this fall, Phil Snowden Elementary School, with staffing levels increasing to accommodate the growing number of students, 5.647 certificated staff and 6.141 classified staff positions over last year’s budget.

Also approved as part of the resolution are capital project fund expenses of $5,985,000, debt service fund payments of $5,988,982, a transportation vehicle fund of $700,000 and an Associated Student Body fund of $425,000.

The district is projecting an overall full time equivalent student enrollment of 3,970 students, an increase of 70 students over the 2012-2013 school year average but less than the 4,022 students projected in the Statistical Cohort Survival model. This should lead to a projected revenue increase more than 2012-2013 of $3,303,228 and overall higher projected revenues of over $43.2 million, mainly from state funding sources, state and federal grants and a local levy.

Also on the very heavy agenda, the board unanimously approved recommendations from the Music Adoption Committee to implement a middle school strings program as part one of the Cheney Public Schools Secondary Music Adoption. High school music teacher Harlan Henderson outlined the program, recommending a two-year phase in for purchasing instruments and other materials, spending $132,000 the first year and $135,000 the second.

Henderson said the committee is aware of the district financing needs, and that much of the purchases of instruments would be to replace old, worn out existing ones currently used.

“A lot of this is to just catch up with instruments,” he said. “As soon as it could be funded, we would love to have that funding.”

Superintendent Debra Clemens noted the last music adoption program that took place in the district was for $25,000, taking place in 1993. Currently the music program is budgeted to receive $46,000 in 2013-2014.

Board director Rick Mount said the benefits students derive from music classes have been made clear in numerous studies.

“If we have to cut something somewhere else let’s do it and keep this going,” he said.

The board also unanimously approved changes to breakfast and lunch prices and the one-year extension of a contract with Darigold to provide dairy products. Nutrition services director Brian Levy said the district is raising prices to comply with government regulations based on participation and federal reimbursements, following a set formula called the Paid Lunch Equity.

Elementary breakfast prices increase 5 cents to $1.50 and lunches go up 10 cents to $2.35. Middle school prices increase 5 cents for both breakfast and lunch, now at $1.60 and $2.85, respectively. There is no change in the cost of reduced price breakfast and lunches, with juice and milk costs staying at 60 cents.

The board also: approved the annual agreement with Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS) for the health center at Sunset Elementary School and accepted the Crunk’s Sports Fields Complex as a completed project. The board also held first readings on revised school policies for alternative learning experience programs, community service and regulation of dangerous weapons on school premises. Mount raised concerns about a section of the latter regarding when persons may carry firearms into school buildings or on school property, requesting the word “unloaded” be inserted into the language.

Finally the board approved a proposal to review an offer to purchase the surplused Fisher Building by Cheney developer Steve Emtman. As part of the selling process, the board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 6:05 p.m. during its Aug. 7 special meeting, with a workshop scheduled to discuss recommendations for a potential of Cheney High School following.

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

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