Sacrifice stocking reserves; IRSD board OKs filling one assistant superintendent vacancy

SELBYVILLE – District-wide sacrifice has paid noticeable dividends as Indian River School District replenishes its financial reserves.

Local tax dollars support the district’s obligation to meet year-round payroll. Typically, the bulk of tax money arrives in the fall, around October. Tax revenue in summer months can be lean and unpredictable, said IRSD Director of Business Jan Steele.

“We may get $32 million in October. The ones that comes in during the summer kind of dwindle in,” said Steele. “We need to be able to make payroll from July 1 to October without knowing how much revenue that we will get in those months. So, it’s really important for the district to have an end-of-the-reserve that could carry us through until we get our tax revenues in September and October.”

“The district did not have that going into the last couple of years. So, there wasn’t a large reserve. Therefore, it was difficult to make it through until we received the taxes,” Ms. Steele said.

Ongoing cuts and economies have stocked the reserve account.

“One of our goals was to build up the reserve to the point that we were comfortable being able to make it from July 1 to October, which roughly takes us about $12 million,” said Ms. Steele, in a Jan. 23 interview. “My projections up to the this point projecting to June 30 we should be able to meet that goal with putting another $5 million away for reserves. That would give us $8.8 million at the end of this year – June 30 of this year.”

“This last year we cut every budget we could possibly cut. We looked at every expense that we were paying. We significantly cut some budgets. Some budgets we just cut by a little amount,” said Ms. Steele. “The money has come from us cutting our budgets and then having the added income from the referendum that we had last year. It’s three years of sacrifice to get us to the point where we need to be.”

IRSD did not fill eight administrative positions for which it qualified through the Sept. 30 unit count last fall. Those positions would be funded by a combination of state and local tax dollars.

“That saved salary money,” Ms. Steele said.

Two of those eight administrative positions were for assistant superintendents. The board of education recently authorized the hiring of one assistant superintendent for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018.

Current IRSD superintendent Mark Steele was assistant superintendent before superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting stepped down to take the Delaware Secretary of Education post. When Mr. Steele was promoted to superintendent in January 2017, his previous assistant superintendent position was left vacant for the current fiscal year.

“Mark (Steele) decided that because of budget crunch we would go for a period of time without an assistant superintendent,” said IRSD school board president Charles Bireley. “Now, it appears that things are going to be a little bit better starting the next fiscal year on July 1, so we decided we would post the position.”

Salary for the assistant superintendent will be based on several factors, including credits earned, degrees, experience and number of years they have worked. “And they have to hold a certificate to be eligible with that,” said Mr. Bireley.

In addition, this past year the district had to address a substantial cut in state funding from the Department of Education.

“We also were dealing with the state cut of $26 million, and our share of that was $2 million,” said Ms. Steele. “If the state does not take that money again this year, that’s an additional $2 million that we will have to put into the budget for FY19.”

The idea, Ms. Steele said, is that next fiscal year the district won’t need to put as much away into reserves “so we can begin putting money back into the schools, increasing those budgets. And then the following year even more would be able to go back into the schools. Next year it will be $4 million. So, we will have at least $1 million that we can put back into the district budget to be spent in the schools, or salaries or wherever it needed to be spent.”

“It’s like replenishing your savings after you bought a car or something like that,” said Ms. Steele. “It’s something the entire district has worked hard to maintain. Everybody has made a sacrifice.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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