Palisades board praises staff for avoiding funding pitfalls
Before passing their latest resolutions calling on the state for reform of funding for pensions and charter schools, Palisades board members at the Jan. 15 public meeting praised district staff for “outstanding planning” to avoid related funding emergencies now being reported by other districts in the area.
However, the recently retired district business administrator had credited particular actions of the board itself when noting a comparison of Palisades’ preparation to that of its counterparts.
Palisades is currently meeting expenditures for employer contribution to pensions that increased from less than $1 million in fiscal 2010-11 to $1.5 million in 2011-12, and to over $2 million for 2012-13, with a projection of nearly $3 million for 2013-14. Its charter school expenditure for 2012-13 is nearly $750,000, with zero state reimbursement to the district.
While announcing her retirement last spring, after serving in the position since 2005, officials praised Jill Ruch for an outstanding job, not only in “budgeting for pensions” but also for “superior internal and external audits, which led to outstanding bond and credit ratings for the district,” and a “system of accounting procedures that will serve the district well.”
But at the meeting last April 3, Ruch returned praise to the board for its own efforts, including “raising taxes when necessary, which has put the district in a much better position than others” going forward.
Last fall, while presenting their proposed $40 million budget for 2014-15, which includes a variety of cost cuts but still shows a deficit of $300,000, officials pledged to try to avoid a tax increase, for the third consecutive year. In addition, the board voted to limit any increase to the 2.1 percent allowed by the state without need for referendum.
While repeatedly calling for legislative help with macro-reductions on pensions and charters, officials had vigorously sought out various micro-reductions for the proposed district budget, with avoiding a tax increase prominently in mind, along with careful consideration of what could be effectively done with less expense.
Among the largest of such savings is a proposed reduction of over $54,000 in school bus costs. Officials had seen mostly empty buses going by, and there had always been less usage than what was planned for. So the number of buses for this year was reduced from 36 to 34, without coming anywhere near state-mandated limits on bus capacity.
So far, there has been a complaint from one elementary school of too-long a ride. It was solved by increasing ride time on another route.
Meanwhile, an increase in parent pickups at another elementary school has been noted, without known connection to longer bus rides.
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