Salem schools face red ink by 2017

SALEM – The five-year financial forecast approved by the Salem Board of Education Monday night shows the cash carryover keeping the bottom line in the black through 2016.

The budget may see red, though, in 2017 and 2018.

District Treasurer Jim Wilson said that’s when they’ll see some uncertainty, with estimated deficits of $467,783 in 2017 and $1.2 million in 2018.

Wilson gave board members a brief overview of the forecast, which by law, must be completed twice a year. Compared to other districts, he said “our tax base supports the school in what we need to do here.”

General property tax makes up about 44 percent of the revenue. He explained that the state revenue makes up about 36 percent and is vital to the operation of the district. The state funding is based on three categories: the student count, the wealth of the district and the property valuation. For this year and next year, he said the district is seeing an increase in state foundation money.

Salem falls below the state median average for both the wealth index and the property valuation, which Wilson said means the district gets more money from the state.

“The more kids we have, potentially the more money,” he said.

The district is currently deficit spending, spending more than the revenue provides, but making up the difference with the cash carryover. Revenue for this fiscal year is estimated at about $18 million, with expenses at $18.5 million and a cash balance of about $956,000.

In other business, members of the Salem Preservation Society Reilly Wall Project Steering Committee offered their thanks to board members and school administrators for their cooperation and work on the Reilly Wall project, particularly pointing out the help received from board vice chairman Steve Bailey. Bailey heads up the board’s Buildings & Grounds Committee.

Karen Carter said the school board gave Salem a wonderful gift when it allowed the project to continue. Bailey in turn thanked the Salem Preservation Society for its work in raising the money for its part of the project, including the ticket booth, north wall replica and dedication park.

One of the items approved in the consent agenda was the termination of classified bus driver Terry Bishop effective Sept. 20. Bishop worked more than 20 years for the district. Bratten wouldn’t go into detail about what happened, but said the termination was based on misconduct that violated Bishop’s last chance agreement as well as standards and expectations for all bus drivers.

A grievance was filed regarding the termination, but was denied by Bratten.

After approving the consent agenda, the board went into executive session for personnel matters, with no action to be taken.