MORRIS – Saratoga School District has lost $790,000 in revenue during the last three years because of declining property tax values and missing state funding.
“We’re doing everything we can to tighten our belts and deal with the situation,” said Kathy Perry, superintendent of Saratoga School District 60C on Wednesday. “But with revenue reductions, it’s a little bit out of our control.”
Last school year, Saratoga operated under a tight budget, spending much less on teacher and administration salaries than the state average. To account for the revenue decreases, the district had to reduce spending by another $360,000 this school year, resulting in the loss of three teachers and three lunch workers during the last year.
“We are being fiscally conservative,” Perry said. “But this is a revenue problem, not a spending problem.”
The district’s budget committee discussed the impact of those revenue reductions at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
The budget committee was created last school year to help guide the district’s financial decisions. The committee is comprised of one board member, two parents, three teachers, the Saratoga principal and Perry.
“We’re trying to be proactive, which is why the budget committee was put in place,” Perry said. “We’re also trying to communicate our situation to our stakeholders.”
The $790,000 reduction was caused by a $650,000 decrease in property tax values in the district and the state’s failure to pay $140,000 in aid to Saratoga. Perry said revenues are expected to decline in the coming years.
Currently, the school’s education fund is operating with a deficit budget, meaning more money is being spent than generated.
Aside from the staff reductions, the district also had to increase certain school fees this year to help generate some extra funds.
“I’m sure there were some hard feelings about the fee increase,” said Mike Wright, parent, local financial advisor and member of the budget committee. “In my opinion, though, the district did the right thing. The increase was very small and it needed to happen.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee discussed putting measures in place to help mitigate the funding problem if it continues.
“As a district, we’ve decided that we do not want to borrow money,” Perry said.
In the future, Perry said the district could see lager class sizes, less teachers, program cuts, additional fee increases and a possible tax rate increase to account for lost revenues.
While the district is prepared for the worst, Perry said she is still hopeful that development on Brisbin Road will help bring the district’s tax revenues back to normal levels.
“We’re still hopeful,” Perry said.