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Bickleton schools weathering economic times plaguing other districts

BICKLETON - Cost-cutting measures combined with steady revenues add up to a small surplus for the Bickleton School District's 2011-12 budget.

That's according to action recently by the Bickleton School Board in approving a $1.7 million general fund budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The general fund covers many of the district's day-to-day operational costs.

The general fund budget reflects a spending reduction of about $13,000 from 2010-11 levels.

With revenues up about $35,000 from last year, Bickleton is budgeted to end next school year with a $28,671 surplus in the general fund after expenses are deducted from revenues.

By contrast, the district wrapped up 2010-11 with $18,279 more in expenses than revenues in the general fund.

Judy Naught is the district's business manager, and she says Bickleton schools will not have to lay-off staff to meet the budget.

Reaching a balanced budget - let alone a small budget surplus - given state and federal cuts is no small task.

"We have a very slim budget just like everybody else," says Naught. "We've always played it pretty close to the vest in our budgeting."

Playing it "close to the vest" for 2011-12 means the Bickleton School District forgo spending money on extra supplies and materials.

Naught explained Bickleton schools maintain a supply facility because of the distance to other communities.

Typically, she notes, the district would re-supply its stock of materials.

"We won't be doing that this year," Naught says. "There's enough to get us through."

With an anticipated enrollment of 80 to 85 students for 2011-12, Bickleton's budgeting process is unique compared to many public school districts.

"Under the small schools formula we have the same funding each year no matter how many students we have," Naught said. "Some years that's great, but if there's a year when you need to purchase a lot of new curriculum it can be difficult."

She notes curriculum isn't an issue this coming school year, though the district will have to add a few custodial hours due to the new school building.

Bickleton does not have a school lunch program and did not qualify for stimulus funding. As a result, it does not have the funding gap some school districts experienced when stimulus money expired.

Other budgets the school board approved for 2011-12 are capital projects ($1.73 million), transportation ($30,400), debt service ($982,000) and associated student body fund ($26,951).

Naught says the budget package is about making do with the resources the district has on hand during the state and federal economic downturn.

"We're just going to live within our means and just try to coast out the bad times," she said.

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