School district waits for state budget data

The Columbia School District hopes to finalize its budget by early June.
Thursday, December 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Columbia School District, it seems, is involved in a waiting game.

District officials must wait for information from the state before finalizing the 2005-06 budget.

However, the district is working on aspects of the budget that are independent of the state’s decision.

Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said principals will meet with parents and staff to discuss each school’s funding needs. These results will be sent to the central office in February, where the administration will look at potential spending and any new programs that are necessary at the district’s schools.

The district will also examine how these changes will affect staffing.

“Staff is responsible for 85 percent of the budget,” Cowherd said. “We’ll need to see what we need. The state requires us to have contracts by April 1.”

Cowherd also said the money brought in by the Newton Summer School program will be included in next year’s budget. It was not included last year because the district was not sure how successful the program would be.

“I imagine we’ll take a look at last year’s numbers and what we’re expecting this year before we make an estimate for the budget,” Cowherd said.

He said increased utilities and general liability insurance rates will also be factors considered in next year’s budget.

However, much depends on state funding.

“We’ll need to see what the governor recommends to the legislatures in terms of state education funds,” Cowherd said.

He said the district would like to finalize the budget by early June, but will need final numbers from the state before completion.

Additionally, the $2 million deficit from the current school year will be paid with district savings. No cuts in salaries or benefits will be necessary.

Cowherd, however, said the district has no projections about the success of next year’s budget.

“A third of our budget comes from the state,” Cowherd said. “Since they don’t have an idea about funding, we don’t have any projections at this point.”

On Monday, the school board accepted the audit from accounting firm Gerding, Korte and Chitwood for the $174 million dollar budget for the 2004-05 school year.

“We are only required by law to do an audit every two years, but we decided to be a little more aggressive and do it every year,” Cowherd said.

Jim McGinnis, a spokesman for the firm, said the district was compliant in all state and federal standards in the audit.

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