Tuesday, November 08, 2011

TOP STORY >> For PCSSD, infusion of more funds

Leader staff writer

A new state law has provided the Pulaski County Special School District with a one-time windfall of $15 million because taxes are distributed earlier. The district will use the money to budget for 2011-12 without slashing at least $4 million and get back on track in 2012-13.

Without the windfall, PCSSD’s approved budget for 2011-12 would have been in the red by about $4 million.

“Obviously that couldn’t happen, so substantial cuts would have to have been made in the 2011-12 budget. As it is, we were able to budget expenditures at about the same level as the prior year and utilize the current year for planning how to deal with what could be a budget problem in 2012-13,” William Goff, the district’s chief financial officer, wrote in an email to The Leader.

The windfall will amount to an $11.5 million carryover in operating funds, up $6 million from last year.

Expenditures for teacher salaries will go up by about $1 million from the $77.7 million in 2010-11 to $79.3 million for 2011-12 to accommodate for the estimated costs of experience and education increments. Goff said the district is not projecting any change to salary schedules and any vacancies that do not have to be filled will not be.

“There we hope to spend less than the amount budgeted,” he explained.

PCSSD is hoping to save about $958,000 on food service because its bakery operation has closed. This means that items will be bought directly from vendors and labor costs will be reduced, Goff said. The district will also use more than $600,000 of inventory purchased during 2010-11.

“We tried to budget realistically but hope we can operate on less than the amount actually budgeted,” Goff added.

Goff said Act 871 of 2011 requires an accounting change. The change means the district can record $15 million in revenue from property taxes collected from its fiscal year, March through June, in the same year the funds were collected. Before, PCSSD would have had to defer the money to the following school year, 2012-13.

The district therefore has all the property tax revenue collected in 2010-11 and will have all property tax revenue collected by June 30, 2012, to budget for this school year.

He said PCSSD has to look at what’s required to comply with law or accreditation standards and things that are considered optional. Out of what is optional, it has to decide which costs have the most positive effect on student achievement in order to cut things that are optional and have the least impact on student achievement.

“The financial requirement is that we maintain a sufficient legal fund balance and provide for all requirements found in law and standards. The financial goal is that we maintain a sufficient legal fund balance and provide our students with a world-class education that far exceeds law and standards,” Goff said.

PCSSD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Guess said the goals for the 730-square-mile district with more than 17,000 students include achieving unitary status because desegregation funding won’t last, implementing the common core curriculum, changing the culture in all schools to promote leadership and academic performance and addressing the causes of the district’s fiscal distress.

Guess said managing the district is difficult because it covers more land than Little Rock’s 97 square miles and North Little Rock’s 29 square miles, but PCSSD has fewer students. He also said property in Little Rock is assessed at $3.2 billion compared to PCSSD’s $2.3 billion and North Little Rock’s $706 million.

He added that residents pay 40.7 mills that go to PCSSD. Every school district in Arkansas receives 25 mills under the state’s uniform millage rate. For PCSSD, each mill generates $2.3 million. Each mill in Little Rock generates $3.2 million.

Of PCSSD’s 40.7 mills, 14.8 go to pay off debts and 0.09, which generates $2.1 million, is used for technology.

Guess said the district will look at trimming its teaching, administrative and district staff and cutting the budget wherever it can without losing anything it needs to do to serve the public.