TWIN BRIDGES – Schools superintendent Chad Johnson discussed funding shortfalls during the Twin Bridges school board meeting on Dec. 17.
Johnson told the board he is in the process of examining revenue statements and preparing updated budget proposals for the board. “We know that, from the beginning of the year, we’re going to have that roughly $5,000 to $6,000 revenue shortfall from the last legislative session,” he said. “We’re having a conversation on how we want our financials. Do we want our financials to show that? Do we want them to show 100 percent of our budget, that we track in a separate place – the shortfall, the $5,500 roughly? I don’t think we’ve quite decided. I haven’t sat down and looked at it yet.”
Johnson said he is reviewing the statements with schools clerk JoyAnn Breakall and he will present a proposed budget during the January board meeting. “We’ll work that out so that we can present it to the board in what we think is the easiest way to get you that information,” he said.
The superintendent said increasing budget cuts by the state and federal governments will have a small impact this school year, but a greater impact starting next school year. “You’ll notice that we face a much larger revenue hit, not as big this year, but much bigger next year,” he said. “What that’s mostly going to come to us on is not the general fund, but it is the transportation fund. So, our transportation fund, when you look at the schools combined, the block grant and the transportation block grant that are all being eliminated in this upcoming year, we know that that’s going to create shortfalls in the transportation budget.”
Johnson said the district won’t be allowed to raise taxes to cover the shortfall. “If we do this right, we don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “But if we get to the end of the year and, because of the loss of revenue, we’re not able to pay our financial bills, you cannot levy that. What they have given you is the flexibility to take money out of your general, out of your tuition, out of your adult ed, out of any of your budgeted or non-budgeted funds, minus retirement, minus debt service. They’re going to want you to take that and spend it there.”
The superintendent said he is troubled by what he sees as a continuing trend of school budget cuts. “You look at what the trend in the legislature of the state is; you look at the federal level and the fact that they’re wanting to cut all kinds of title funding, especially the after-school programs and certain things like that – it could have a huge impact on what we’re doing in the schools for the next couple of years.”
Johnson said the district is fortunate to have some reserve funds. “We are extremely lucky that we’re sitting with three bonds or CD’s in the bank,” he said. “I’m going to be honest with you. Whoever invested those, back in the early 80s, I’m sure there’s something in the minutes that says, ‘Save it for a rainy day.’ The rainy day is about here; the forecast shows that it’s coming very soon.”
In other matters, Johnson said he is looking into different options for creating a schools website, where information could be posted and webpages created for each class. One of the options under consideration is a partnership with the county to create the site. The primary questions in establishing a site, according to Johnson, are who will manage the site and who will upload content. “We’re going to have to make that determination on whether it’s going to be one or two people hosting it, or whether we want to open it to multiple individuals,” he said. “I think that will dictate what direction we want to go with updating our website.”
The superintendent said the district is considering replacement of a school bus with 140,000 miles that has required several repairs this year. Johnson said the district set aside funds over the past couple years with the expectation of replacing the bus. The district solicited bids for a 50-60 passenger bus, received one bid, and will seek out more bids as it considers the purchase.
Johnson said an article will be published in the January edition of Colorado State University’s Mining Journal, discussing the science, technology, engineering and math program at Twin Bridges schools and the assistance provided by technology executive John Osborne, board member with microchip manufacturer Brewer Science. The superintendent reported Osborne recently donated $28,000 to the schools for the purchase of computers and supplies, and is helping Twin Bridges schools set up an internship program, in which students would shadow technology workers in Brewer’s Rolla, Mo. manufacturing facility.
“Mr. Osborne has supported us tremendously,” said Johnson.
During the clerk’s report, Breakall said obsolete technology in her office had failed. “My computer, which has a program on it for our accounting, is 11 years old, and it just went down last night,” she said. “I spent a couple hours on it trying to get it back on. I got back on and got all the payroll done, but the phones went down today and I tried to get into my accounting program to do all the claims checks and it would not go up.”
Breakall said there is no longer support for the accounting system and the computer and software will need to be replaced.
In other business, the school board:
• Approved hiring L. Frandsen as a substitute custodian and T. Lott as a substitute teacher, pending background investigations;
• Approved a senior class trip to Salt Lake City from March 28-31.
The next Twin Bridges school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at Twin Bridges High School.