Columbia schools to face depleting reserve funds

Decreasing state funds drive local spending up
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The majority of the Columbia School Boardmembers expressed displeasure Monday night with a projected budget that called for the district to use $25 million of its reserves by 2009 to compensate for insufficient statefunds.

The district’s reserves would fall from $31 million to $3 million under the projected budget.

“I realize it is a projection, but I am uncomfortable with it,” board member Donald Ludwig said.

Deputy Superintendent for Administration Jacque Cowherd said the objective of the projection was to help the board with decision-making in regard to the next few years.

The projection shows a deficit of $2 million for fiscal 2006 and predictsan increase in the deficit each consecutive year until it reaches more than $10 million in 2009.

The district currently holds $30 million yearly in its reserves, about 20 percent of its current yearly spending. According to the projection, in three years reserve funds will decrease to a little more than $3 million, 2 percent of its current yearly spending. “If the state decreases what they pay, then we will have to take it locally,” board member Kerry Crist said.

She said this would mean a tax levy would have to be passed in order to compensate for the decrease in state funding.

Board president J.C. Headley added that the projection of a 2 percent reserve fund was too low for the board to accept.

Crist said providing the numbers will allow the district to show the public what the district needs in terms of funding.

The public will have to decide whether it wants to maintain the current level of school quality or keep taxes low, Cristsaid.

The board also approved an updated version of the district’s technology plan Monday.

One of the objectives of the three-year plan is toensure ­outdated computers are replaced.

The board also approved the sale of $10 million of general obligation bonds. The bidding period for the bonds will end March 13.

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