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Lindbergh Board of Education approves revised budget for 2003-'04 school year

A revised budget for the 2003-2004 school year that projects $1.8 million in deficit spending as part of a planned spend down of district reserves recently was approved by the Lindbergh Board of Education.

Board members voted unanimously last week to approve the revised budget for the current school year.

Though the revised budget projects $1.8 million in deficit spending, the original budget adopted by the school board last June anticipated deficit spending totaling more than $2.4 million.

Aside from the $14.1 million Proposition 4 bond issue, the district projects expenses for the 2003-2004 school year to total $42.6 million — down about $500,000 from the original budget. Excluding revenue from Proposition 4, the district projects revenue of $40.8 million for the current school year.

The district will not go into the red, but will dip into its estimated $21 million in reserves, if necessary, to balance the budget.

While projected expenditures dropped, projected revenues increased by about $870,000. About $1 million in unexpected money came from SAFECO and investment revenue increased by about $200,000.

Though overall projected expenditures dropped, the district expects to spend $277,000 more on teacher salaries than originally projected.

The budget usually is revised in December, but Assistant Superintendent for Finance Pat Lanane explained that he decided to wait because he was unsure how much the district will receive in property tax revenue.

As a result of changes in computer software at the county assessor's office, Lanane still doesn't expect to know until the end of next month.

"It's perplexing to have to guess on our single largest revenue source,'' he said.

After the school district received about $700,000 less than expected last year in property tax revenue, he lowered the projected revenue from property taxes for this school year by about $700,000.

Though he didn't have final numbers available when the budget first was approved, based on new information, Lanane said he was able to project a better estimate.

This is the second year of the planned spend down of district reserves as the district has been able to stretch a tax-rate increase approved by voters in 1990 more than 13 years.

Most school districts obtain voter approval of a tax-rate increase, establish a fund balance and then "spend down'' that balance. Among the reasons Lindbergh has been able to stretch the 1990 tax-rate increase 13 years are favorable court cases that allowed the district to utilize the Consumer Price Index tax-rate adjustment, the economic upturn of the 1990s, the district's participation in the Voluntary Student Transfer Program and good fiscal stewardship by the board and administration, Lanane previously has said.

In other financial matters, the school board authorized the refinancing of general obligation bonds issued for the Proposition 4 improvements.

Voters approved the Proposition 4 bond issue last April. The bond issue is funding building improvements across the district, including parking and traffic-flow improvements at all schools, a new library at Truman Elementary and a new swimming pool at the high school.

By reselling $8.9 million of the $14.1 million at a lower interest rate, the district expects to save taxpayers $500,000. The $8.9 million is to be retired completely 12 years from now.

Lanane said he is glad to have the chance to lower the amount taxpayers will have to pay to retire the bonds.

"We want to give back money,'' he said. "I love to be able to do this.''

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