General fund money projected to dwindle this year

Trustee Bob Crowell referred repeatedly to the proposed budget as a "placeholder," meaning that the board would approve it merely to meet the June 8 filing deadline then make the true adjustments later.

"I don't think this budget means anything," he said. "I don't understand what we're doing here tonight. ... There is nothing here that is substantive as to whether this is a good or bad budget."

He said that feedback from the public had been nil, and that the room, earlier filled with district employees, was now empty.

"Someone's got to tell me whether this is good, bad or indifferent," he said.

The balance in the general fund has fallen over the past several years from $3.5 million in the year ending 2004 to $1.4 million in the year ending 2005.

This year's projected $1.16 million deficit spending takes the balance to $263,000.

Bob Anderson, the district's finance director, said that he could schedule another budget meeting, and that a final decision didn't need to be made Tuesday night. The only thing he would need to do is post a notice of a follow-up meeting seven days in advance.

"I don't want to twist your arm," Anderson said.

He also added that he felt the budget was the best reflection of the variables that could occur in the Legislature. No trustees took him up on his offer.

Issues at question in the Legislature that would impact the district's budget include funding for teacher's salaries, property tax abatement, teachers' retirement credits and per-pupil student funding.

Anderson has said in the past that legislative decisions could decrease the district's deficit-spending by up to 50 percent - some $580,000.

Still, that leaves the district with an equal amount of deficit-spending, which directly contradicts the board's prior message to get the budget balanced.

"I just don't want a final budget that has so much deficit spending," said trustee James Lemaire.

Trustee John McKenna described the budget process as flawed, adding it did not allow for legitimate input.

"I agree with Bob," he said. "This is a flawed document. It has no basis in reality."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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