Woodside school board meets today on parcel tax, budget

Meeting starts at 3:30 in Wildcat Room

A decision about putting a $290 annual parcel tax measure on the November ballot and approval of a budget for the coming school year are on the Tuesday, June 7, agenda for the governing board of the Woodside Elementary School District.

The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. in the school's Wildcat Room, 3195 Woodside Road.

The parcel tax would be a continuation of a tax that will expire in June 2017 that accounts for a little over $300,000 of the school district's annual budget. In the three-year budget forecast included with the proposed budget it is treated as if it will expire. "We will use reserves to cover if the parcel tax is not renewed," the report from district business official Therese McNamee says.

The current parcel tax was approved in 2009. The proposal presented to the board would extend that tax for eight years at the existing rate. It continues to have an exemption for voters 65 and older. To pass, the measure must be approved by 66.7 percent of the voters.

The three-year budget shows that the loss of the parcel tax would still allow the district to maintain the state required reserves of 4 percent of the general fund budget, getting down to 4.35 percent in 2018-19 if revenues do not increase or expenses are not cut.

Ms. McNamee's report says that the currently projected cost of living increases and program expenses "cannot be maintained if the parcel tax is not renewed. Additional expense reductions will need to be considered."

The board is also scheduled to approve a budget for the 2016-17 school year. A report from Ms. McNamee shows the district with $10.06 million in expected revenues and $10.05 million in spending, leaving a reserve of a little over $880,000, or about twice the amount mandated by the state.

The budget shows that the number of students at the school has fallen by about 9 percent in the past three years, from 452 students in the 2013-14 school year to a predicted 409 students in the 2016-17 school year.

At the same time, the district has seen a healthy increase in property tax revenues, from about $5.5 million in 2013-14 to a projected $6.6 million in 2016-17, an increase of about 16 percent since 2013.

Revenues are down by $576,400 from 2105-16 due to decreases in one-time state revenues, the report says, while spending is down $797,235 from the previous year because of previous spending of one-time funding for instructional materials, professional development and capital expenditures.

The budget shows that salaries and benefits make up most of the district's general fund budget. Salaries and benefits have increased from 79.9 percent of the budget in 2013-14 to a projected 84.3 percent in the 2016-17 school year. The three-year budget forecasts that amount increasing to 84.8 percent by 2018-19. Much of the increase is due to an annual increase in retirement costs of about 2 percent each year. The state mandates most of the costs of retirement plans for school districts.

The budget shows the one-school K-8 district has five administrators: a superintendent, two principals, a business official and a director of special education. It shows the full-time equivalent of 42.6 teachers for the coming year, down one position from the current year, and the equivalent of 12.7 other non-management employees.

The one-position reduction reflected in the budget is probably linked to the district's hopes to soon be able to stop covering the salary of a teacher it tried unsuccessfully to fire and who has been on the payroll but not working since April 2015. "We anticipate reaching settlement on open litigation regarding employee dismissal," the budget report says.

The district should also save considerably on legal fees. After initially budgeting $25,000 on legal fees for the 2015-16 school year, the board increased that budget by $225,000 and had spent most of the $250,000 by the end of the 2015-16 budget year.

While the budget document does not specify how much will be spent on legal services in the coming year, Ms. McNamee's report does say that services and other operating expenditures are expected to drop by 22.65 percent in 2016-17 "due to reduction in legal fees and leased equipment."

Ms. McNamee's report projects property tax revenue to increase in the future at a slower rate than in past years, with 5.5, 4.5 and 3.5 percent tax revenue increases over the next three years.

The school board is also expected to vote on a contract with its employees, discuss an update of its facilities master plan and highlights of its strategic goals for 2016-17, and vote on the district's state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan.

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