The Taconic & Green Regional School District board learned Tuesday night that its finances are in good shape following the COVID-19 shutdown.
Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Randi Lowe updated the board with the financial report, which was introduced by BRSU’s Business Manager Sue Wilborn who said the district “ended the year in a good place.”
“We shut down operations for about a third of the year,” Wilborn said. “All of that money is going into the tax stabilization fund. We’re setting ourselves up for the next few years.”
In Lowe’s report, it was revealed that the district’s actual surplus came in well beyond even the positive expectations of earlier in the year.
According to Lowe, the district expected to end the year with a surplus of $510,000 but when the final math was done, the district actually came in with a surplus of $1,270,000, $760,000 more than anticipated. An important asterisk in the report notes that financial statements are in final review in preparation for an audit in November and may change slightly.
The district won’t be immediately looking for ways to spend the extra cash. Voters decided in March to move any surplus funds into a tax stabilization reserve fund for future use and that money will likely be used to offset expected shortfalls in the coming years due to COVID-19.
And COVID, and some tight purse strings is where the surplus came from.
Lowe’s report says “there were savings in most expenditure categories,” some of the larger line items came K-8 instructional program, school administration, operations and extracurricular and enrichment.
“The onset of COVID-19, and dismissal of schools in March of 2020, had a substantial impact on the spending of district resources,” Lowe wrote in her report. “While we maintained payment of staff wages and benefits at all regularly scheduled hours through the end of the school year, we did not incur costs that normally would have taken place to support the operation of schools.”
She identified some of the significant savings coming from:
Stipends and wages for additional work.
Supplies and materials.
Substitutes not required.
Outside transportation contract.
And, extracurricular activities.
The district also received greater revenues than expected due to federal impact aid funds received, Lowe said, as well as increased school meal program revenues.
“About half of the difference between our spring projection and the actual year-end surplus of $1,270,000 is due to conservative (higher) expenditure projections in our schools programming in the spring, and items that could not be predicted at the time such as the additional revenues in the school meals program and a savings (rather than increased costs) in the 9-12 program,” Lowe said.
In addition, the good news kept coming.
Board member Jim Salsgiver revealed that the legislature approved a measure in the budget bill that will not punish schools for having a lower ADM, or Average Daily Membership, that determines the amount of funding a school receives from the state.
With many kids choosing to home-school or other options, there was concern that a decreasing ADM would mean a large reduction in funding.
But Salsgiver told the board that the state has decided that this year’s ADM will not be less than the ADM count for the prior year.
And, he said, the state told the Department of Taxes to “ignore any deficits from the prior year when setting tax rates for the coming year.”
“The Ed fund is not going to shoulder the deficits that may have been in place in the prior year and have to make it up in the coming tax rates,” Salsgiver said. “That’s going to have a huge impact on tax rates and all that. We need to ultimately be thankful that’s the way it came out in the legislature because it wasn’t clear those things were going to happen. We need to recognize that the legislature really did step up for us.”