Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Fairfield Schools avoid '04 deficit

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — An increase in revenue and a decrease in spending mean Fairfield Schools will stay in the black one year longer than anticipated, officials said Monday.

        But an operating levy should still be put before voters in November, schools Treasurer J. Scott Gooding told the school board.

        The district closed the 2002 fiscal year June 30 with a balance of $11.3 million, Mr. Gooding said. But deficits will begin chewing up that balance in the coming school year. The district will take in about $60.2 million in the general fund during the next 12 months but will spend $62.2 million, Mr. Gooding said.

        By June 2004, according to district projections, only $33,000 of the surplus will remain, he said.

        Figures include paying for three additional bus drivers, three special-education teachers and 5 1/2 additional teaching positions to accommodate the district's increase in students.

        About three weeks ago the district received its last fiscal year 2002 payment from business inventory taxes, Mr. Gooding said. It was $1.8 million higher than projected, which made up most of the 2.5 percent increase in revenue that school officials saw when they closed the books June 30. The district also spent 2.9 percent less than it budgeted.

        Those two factors, Mr. Gooding said, mean the general fund won't drop into the red until June 2005, when a $12.3 million deficit is expected. Originally, a deficit of about $8 million was expected in 2004.

        “We've still got to do something, but this is good news,” Mr. Gooding said. “We don't have to have a (7-mill or) 8-mill levy like we thought we'd have to. Hopefully we'll take a smaller levy to voters.”

        A recommendation on a levy will be made next month, Superintendent Robert Farrell said. The deadline for putting a levy on the November ballot is Aug. 22. Collections on any levy passed in 2002 would begin in January.

        The district grew by 245 students last year, but no new teachers were hired, Mr. Farrell said. Another 75 new students are expected for the 2002-03 school year.

        Projections do not include the cost of moving from half-day to full-day kindergarten, which the district is studying. To do that, the district would need additional operating funds, board members have said.


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