August 22, 2013

Budget muddle

Budget muddle
state caps, sequester squeeze Parshall’s bottom line
By Jerry W. Kram
Politics in Bismarck and Washington D.C. are both making life difficult for Parshall School District Superintendent John Weidner.
The state legislature voted to reduce the amount of money school districts can raise locally while sequestration battles in Congress could leave a $350,000 hole in the district’s finances. While the legislature did increase state aid to schools, in Parshall the increase barely covers the reduction in local revenue.
Meanwhile, the oil boom is putting its own financial pressure on the district as the school is forced to provide housing for more teachers and it has to compete with oil field wages to hire and retain non-teaching staff.
Weidner told the board in its annual budget meeting that he considered the sequester and it’s affect on Impact Aid to be the districts biggest problem. Impact Aid are payments made by the government in lieu of property taxes on non-taxable federal land in a school district. Weidner said the sequester could cost the district a third of its Impact aid this year alone.
“That’s not the worst of it,” Wiedner noted. “Unless Congress acts to fix this, then every year we will see another cut in our funding until 2021. Impact aid makes up 20 percent of our revenue and we don’t have anywhere to make that money up.”
The district’s budget for the next school year shows revenue of $4.55 million, up slightly from 2012-13. However, that includes a bond sale for $205,000 to pay for two teacher apartments at the Rockview Plaza, so the actual revenue will be down by about $150,000.
Weidner pointed out that the district will still be in good shape for another year or two because of a healthy cash reserve. But he warned that it won’t take too many years like this to wipe out that reserve.

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