Dear Princeton Community,
Since I began in my position as superintendent at Princeton Public Schools, I have come to know that this position has changed me. I feel a heightened sense of responsibility for our District, our students and staff, and our community. I have been aware of discussions along the way regarding our budget, and I recognize that it is a complex discussion which confuses many. I am going to try to explain it in plain and general terms in this letter.
We need to do budget adjustments for the 2015-2016 school year. You might ask, “What about the budget reserves?” Yes, we do have budget reserves. There are multiple categories of them in our District.
One is the assigned fund balance in the General Fund that are targeted for specific purposes by the board: facilities, fixtures, furniture, equipment, renovations, construction costs, technology, etc. We expect that these fund balances will be used over the next couple of year as much of the assigned money was set aside for the purpose of assisting with the cost of construction.
Another is an unassigned fund balance in the General Fund which has a requirement by our Board Policy--that we have a 10% reserve. Our total budget is 30 Million dollars, and we currently have more than the 10%. The board has decided to draw slowly from this fund balance. We use this part of the fund balance to pay our bills.
A third category is our reserved fund balances in the General Fund that we are required by state statute to be set aside for a specific purpose. These amounts cannot move from “account” to “account”.
We also have Community Education, Food Service, Debt Service and our Construction Fund Fund Balances, which are all outside the General Fund. These amounts cannot move from “account” to “account”. They must be used for the intended purpose of the fund.
Unfortunately the second fund balance is fading away and will not sustain us over very more years.
How did we get here? Several reasons. . .
Inflation--The rate of inflation has far surpassed the increase of funding from the state. The State pays about 80% of our revenue, and we have actually gone backwards in revenue over the past ten years, when you factor in inflation.
Under-levy--Since the community supported us in passing the referendum last spring, the School Board was very careful in its decision when setting the amount of the levy for next year. Knowing that the new projects were going to result in an estimated 23% increase in our levy, the School Board decided to under-levy a portion of the greater amount (an additional 12%) that district could levy. This resulted in less money for the General Fund.
Decreased Enrollment--Over the past 9 years, we have gone from 3,450 to 3,100 students. In other words, we have lost 350 students, or 10% of our student body.
Ratio of staff to students--Even though we have lost 350 students over the past 9 years, we have not adjusted our staff to the same degree. We have made some adjustments, and now we need to make some more.
Our timeline for the budget adjustments:
April 7 School Board meeting to review budget adjustment options
April 8 People can suggest budget adjustment ideas on our District website
April 20-24 Budget Meetings
April 21 School Board decides how much to adjust the budget
April 22 Deliberation about the amount of adjustments
May 5 Decision about actual adjustments
I expect that throughout this process, there may be disagreements about how much and what adjustments there may be. However when all is decided, and the day is over, please know that adjustments will be made with the best interests of the District and ultimately students in mind.
Dr. Julia Espe, Superintendent