By Jon A. Brake
Get out the crying towels the Manhattan School District is working on the 2002-03 Budget. At a time when some School Board members are talking tax increase a look at the books show the District has more than $10 million in the bank.
Everyone is told that the money in savings cannot be spent on General Fund items like teachers pay. If you look at it one way that is correct but if you look into the mirror a different way you will see that it is not correct.
The administration and some School Board members will say that you cannot spend Capital Outlay and Bond & Interest money on other things. This is true. If that money has been taxed for that purpose or if money has been put into that account that money must be spent on Capital items. Capital items are: carpet, electrical, bleachers, doors, roofs, things that build or repair.
In 1998-99 the District spent $1.5 million on Capital Outlay. In 1999-2000 the District spent $1.8 million on Capital Outlay. In both years the Board voted to tax each taxpayer 4 mills to pay the cost. In 2000-01 the District upped the Capital Outlay figure to $2.4 million and raised the mill rate to 4.5.
That money must be spent on Capital Outlay items. But, there is hope, not much, but some. If the District has $10.1 million in savings, and they do, the Capital Outlay mill rate could be cut next year and they can spend part of the money in savings.
The same is true for the Bond and Interest Fund. In 1998-99 the District paid $2.7 million in interest on bonds. It took 8.2 mills to do that. In 1999-2000 they paid $2.3 million in interest using 7 mills. This year the District paid out $2.1 million and charged the taxpayers 6.3 mills.
Next year the Budget should be set to pay part of the Bond and Interest Fund out of savings and cut the mill rate. It can be done.
One last item on the 2002-03 Budget. When will declining students and declining teacher equal a declining Budget? It could take a few new School Board members.
In 1993 the School District had 6,910 students. Voters approved three new schools for more than $25 million on the advice of the old School Board. From that time on the enrollment in the District has fallen to 5,493. We were told that by 1998 the District would have 7,738 students. Didnít happen.
It took six years before a new School Board would approve fewer teachers
and starting next year the District will operate two fewer school buildings.
Fewer students plus fewer teachers plus fewer buildings should equal a lower Budget. Talk to the Board members. Ask them to stop hording money and lower the Budget.
And...the Budget meetings should be on TV.