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Erring on side of caution tone of Mabton schools' 2009-10 budget

MABTON - Although the Mabton School District is losing some levy equalization funds for the 2009-10 school year, funds from the U.S. stimulus package are expected to help cover any shortfalls.

Mabton School District Business Manager Charlie Plesha told the school board of directors at a special meeting held last night, Tuesday, that this year's preliminary budget totals approximately $12.5 million. He started the budget workshop by detailing to board directors new grants the district will receive for the 2009-10 school year and some grants that have been eliminated.

The school district will receive $176,040 in 2010 and 2011 in federal stimulus money. This is designed to help save jobs. The district will also get a one-time fiscal stabilization grant for $791,210 this year and Mabton school officials are allowed to carry that money over to the 2010-11 school year.

Because of this, Plesha told the directors the money will be split in half so the district can spend some money this year but still have some left over for the next. This will allow the school district to continue operations if tough times hit the area.

Two grants worth just under $225,000 were also awarded to the Mabton School District for its special education programs. A small repair grant worth $96,567 will be used to install a new phone system in the district and will also allow for surveillance cameras to be installed in the district's buses and in buildings.

Mabton School District Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis told the directors the cameras will be used to increase safety for the students.

A fresh fruit and vegetables grant awarded to Artz-Fox Elementary School will provide nearly $34,000 in fresh fruits and vegetables for elementary students.

The district was also awarded $5,700 from a safety mini grant. This money will be used to train four district staff to help decrease teen pregnancy in Mabton.

But, as Plesha told the directors, with the good comes the bad and several grants the district had received were eliminated from the 2009-10 budget.

New library monies worth $3,600 were cut as well as $4,875 in vocational equipment allowances. A student achievement grant worth $394,396 was eliminated but $112,921 of that was backfilled with stimulus dollars. A $25,000 grant for math and science was also eliminated.

Other grants and revenue items were reduced or cut, as well, the biggest being $678,289 in levy equalization funds. The new fiscal stabilization grant will help fill that hole, and $140,438 was then given back to the district in levy equalization funds. Plesha told the directors that this reprieve will soon be on the chopping block and this money probably will not be available next year.

A Washington Navigation grant was cut from $30,000 to $20,000 and a $9,000 peer coaching grant at the elementary school was cut in half, as well.

The school funds appear to be in good shape for the school district. Mabton expects to take in $10,927,568 in general fund revenues for 2009-10 and has budgeted $11,705,311 in expenditures. This will leave an expected fund balance of $963,462 at the end of the school year. The ASB fund is expected to receive $117,000 in 2009-10 and the district plans on appropriating $115,000.

The debt service fund is expected to receive $161,032 in revenue for 2009-10 and district officials expect $166,780 in expenditures. This will leave a fund balance of $111,061 at the end of the year.

The capital projects fund will take in an estimated $237,468 in revenues and $425,000 has been appropriated. Plesha told the directors that he estimated high on the expenditures to cover any emergencies that might arise during the school year but said there are no plans to spend that money. It's basically a safety net, he said.

He did the same in the transportation vehicle fund, where only $120,129 is expected in revenues but he budgeted for $130,000 worth of expenditures.

Plesha told the directors that the bus fleet the district has is in very good shape and although a new bus is not needed at this time, he budgeted one in to again be on the safe side.

Plesha explained that he budgets excess expenditures to avoid budget extensions, but money is not spent unless the grants or revenues come in.

Plesha also gave conservative estimates on student enrollment to avoid having to pay back any money to state government in case student enrollment drops during the year. He said expected student enrollment is up by 26 students from this past year.

The Mabton School Board of Directors will vote to accept the proposed 2009-10 school budget on Monday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. during its regularly scheduled meeting. The public will be allowed to voice their opinions on the budget at that time.

The board of directors did take action on two items last night. The board of directors decided to leave breakfast and lunch prices the same as last year and settled on Darigold to be the district's milk supplier.

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