Schools fear budget shortfall

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Facing increasing utility and insurance costs, Carson City school officials are hoping to keep all existing programs intact.

"The last thing we want to do is cut any programs," said Bob Anderson, director of financial services for the school district. "But when you have a fixed income and costs are increasing faster than revenue, something has to give."

The first area to give, he said, will be salary increases for school employees -- although he said they are years behind the inflation curve.

"It's not that we don't want to give them raises, it's just that there's nothing left over after you cover all your fixed costs," Anderson said. "If I had a magic lamp, that's what I'd rub it and ask for -- they deserve it."

Although the budget will not be drafted until May, Anderson and other officials are trying to forecast next year's numbers.

"Once we determine what the enrollment numbers are going to be, we'll take that number and figure out what our income will be," Anderson said. "We'll start looking at how we're going to make that money stretch across all the expenditures. It's going to be a real big challenge."

Carson City, along with 12 other Nevada school districts, applied for a one-time allocation to cover the increase in insurance and utility costs from the State Department of Education for the 2002-2003 school year.

Anderson projects a $230,869 jump in the cost of gas and electricity but received $59,031 toward that increase. Carson City received $260,068 to help cover an anticipated $617,618 increase in insurance costs.

"The school district is very grateful to be getting this appropriation," Anderson said. "It will help in taking care of additional cost increases. But it's not enough to take care of all of it."

The schools receive most of their funding through property and sales taxes and from the state's general fund. Most of the expenditures go into salaries and benefits for the 939 eligible employees and into maintaining buildings.

"It's a delicate balancing act of matching revenues with expenditures," Anderson said. "It's going to be very difficult to continue maintaining the current level of education we have with the level of resources available."

The district will receive an increase in per-pupil funds next year. This year, each student generated $4,435 and next year each student will generate $4,542. About 200 more students are expected to enroll next year.

However, Anderson said with more students come more teachers to hire and additional crowding to already full schools.

"I'm always optimistic -- you have to be," he said. "But in reality, there's just not enough revenue to offset all the expenditures."

This year, the school district had a budget of $55.7 million in total resources and total expenditures of $55.5 million, with an ending balance of $151,095.


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