Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dear Marshall Democrat News:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Mr. Blakely's letter concerning the current financial state of the Marshall Public School District. Additional information is needed to insure an accurate picture of the district's standing, and I am happy to provide that in this letter.

To see the figures Mr. Blakely has provided below, go to www.DESE.mo.gov and click on Web Applications. On that page, you will click on View Public Applications. On the next page, click on Annual Secretary of the Board Report. On the top left, use the drop down box to find Marshall. (Our district number is 097-129.) You will see the ending fund balances --which he reported -- but you must subtract the figure in Fund 4 --which he did not report.

As Mr. Blakely reported, the assessed valuation increased from $117,579,655 in 2004-2005 to $164,913,198 in 2015-2016. The district has seen an increase in its cash reserve of $3,188.606 over the past five years. The beginning of this year it was $5,956,375. As MPS Board of Education and administration have stated many times, cash reserves were increased to pay for repair and renovation projects this summer. Also, looking at the amount in cash reserve is not the accurate way to calculate how much the district has in this account, compared to the total budget.

The cash reserve, or fund balance percentage, compares the district's holdings to actual expenditures in the Operating and Teachers' Funds. Since salaries and other expenses increase every year, looking at the amount of money in reserves shows only a small portion of the big picture. The fund balance last year was 24.32 percent. You can compare this figure to other years by using the drop down box to select the year. In 2014, it was 19 percent, in 2013 it was 21 percent, and in 2012 it was 19 percent.

The higher fund balance this year is to pay for the massive amount of repair, etc. to district facilities. Again, as we have made clear for the past several months, we will be paying for all summer work from our reserves. This includes totally replacing the heating and cooling system at Benton Elementary, repairing the parking lot at Marshall High School, repairing or replacing the roof at MHS, replacing the control systems at the MHS, SCCC and Northwest Elementary. There are facility needs at Spainhower also. Predicting the cost of these projects is a large task, but I believe it will be approximately $2 million. I predict the fund balance will be around 12 - 16 percent after those expenditures. So the cash reserves are no more, comparably, than ever before. The Board, however, is willing to decrease reserves, at the end of this fiscal year, to this rather low level to complete projects that will insure the safety and comfort of our students and staff.

As Mr. Blakely reported, in 2004-2005 the district received $1,102,841 in county revenue -- railroad, utilities and fines and forfeitures. This year we received $2,425,515, ehich caused our tax levy to fall to $2.75, the lowest allowed by Missouri state law. This cost the district local tax money because state law requires the district to remain as close to revenue neutral as allowed by the lowered levy.

Mr. Blakely states that state revenue has increased since in the past several years, as the district received $9,251,523 in 2004-2005 and $10,466,414 in 2015-2016. This figure is the entire state payment which includes preschool, special education, and programs such as Parents as Teachers. State revenue through the funding formula this year is $9,802,622. This is before money is subtracted for local sales tax and gaming money. The final payment is predicted to be $8,563,720.

Also, Mr. Blakely reported the district received $19,000 from interest on the cash reserve and revenues totaling $24,479,864. The district paid a total of $91,934 in interest on the current lease purchase. There are several items that have interest paid, in addition to the lease purchase. This includes trailers and buses.

The budget is a living document which should be amended throughout the year. Current amendments for the district this year predicts revenues to be $24,400,267, expenditures at $24,127,360 for a balance of $272,907, revenues over expenditures. Salaries and benefits account for anywhere from 80 - 87 percent of a district's budget. Eighty percent of this years expenditures is $19,301,888. This calculates the balance of revenues over expenditures at 1 percent of the budget. Obviously, there is not much room to be growing cash reserves.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to communicate with Marshall taxpayers on the current financial status of the district. MPS Board of Education Goal No. 4 states: Marshall Public Schools will be fiscally responsible with taxpayer's money, including as many community members as possible in short- and long-range decision making pertaining to the continuous improvement of district facilities and educational offerings. The first goal of the Board of Education is: The Marshall Public School District will provide and maintain a safe and supportive environment which contributes to the academic success, confidence and happiness of all students. As superintendent, I am very proud of the strides the district is making to accomplish both goals.

Sincerely,

Dr. Carol Maher