Auditor: Colona schools leaning heavily on reserves

Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012, 10:14 pm
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By Lisa Hammer,
COLONA -- Auditor Russ Rumbold of Gorenz and Associates, Peoria, described the school district's finances as a three-legged stool supported by fund reserves, annual revenue and the tax rate.

Colona's education tax rate is maxed out, he noted, limiting property taxes, and general state aid has been declining.Colona has been using fund reserves to cover deficits, with fiscal year 2012 ending $65,000 in the red on a $3.7 million budget.

"You broke even basically in fiscal year '12; that's good," he said. "The bad part is that it's a state-aid district.

"You can weather a storm," Mr. Rumbold said. "It's just a matter of how big is the storm, and at some point, it has to return, and you have to replenish the reserves."

Mr. Rumbold said education fund reserves before early June property taxes arrived were $1,359,000, which represents six and a half months of fund balances. The district also has a balance in its working cash fund.

In other business, superintendent Kyle Ganson again discussed the proposed one-cent sales tax referendum for Henry County schools, stressing the $183,000 raised for Colona could only be spent on maintaining the facility and not for salaries.

"If you want facilities and you want services, the bottom line is someone has to pay, and I can't think of a better way than this," he said. Up to two-thirds of the sales tax is expected to be generated by people who don't live in Henry County through purchases at gas stations, restaurants and shops, he said.

The board will vote next month on whether to back the sales tax referendum on the April 2013 ballot.

It also was noted the district's bonds will be paid off in 2017, but the sales tax could allow them to be paid off sooner and lower residents' property taxes, he said.

Mr. Ganson also said, in future years, the district may have to go to voters to raise its education levy.

"To me, this is a critical, critical issue for this and any of the other districts," he said.

Colona spent $254,000 less in fiscal year 2012 than the previous year, he said, mostly because of less American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The board also:

-- Heard school board candidate packets will be available in the superintendent's office and are due back between Dec. 17 and 24. The seats of five school board members -- Jim Legare, Ray Kutzman, Josh Kyser, Jennifer Webster and Cindy Seaman -- will be on the next ballot.

-- Hard contract negotiations for both certified and support staff, health care reform and other reform legislation will be future issues for the board.

-- Learned a recent PTA sale of 1,300 pies raised more than $4,500.

-- Learned no parents of free- and reduced-price lunch students wanted supplemental educational computer services for their students. The offering was mandated because the district fell below adequate yearly progress for the third consecutive year.


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