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Unexpected Cash Puts Dist. 202 Budget in Black

Spending cuts, union contract savings and grant money should result in a surplus of more than a half million dollar when fiscal year ends this summer, officials said.

Federal grants not budgeted for in September, savings from union contracts and a 5 percent budget reduction are among the reasons for an anticipated budget surplus this fiscal year.

In less than four months, the district has turned a nearly $9.2 million deficit into a $557,000 anticipated surplus for the 2012 fiscal year, without cutting staff or major programs, said John Prince, assistant superintendent for business and operations.

The school board on Monday put the amended budget on public display for 30 days and is expected to approve it Feb. 13.

The district received $630,000 in new federal grant revenue that was not anticipated in September. It includes $130,000 in additional Title I funds, which is financial assistance for the education of low-income families; and $500,000 in E-Rate dollars, a federal reimbursement program that helps rebate the cost of utilities and technology, such as Internet access and data lines.

Personnel savings helped pare down the large deficit. In the fall, the teachers and the support staff unions agreed to new contracts in which they agreed to pay freezes for the upcoming year.

In September, the board approved the 2011-12 budget with the $9.2 million deficit while negotiations for both unions were still ongoing.

The new contracts resulted in a savings of nearly $4.6 million, Prince said.

The district was also able to save about $1.8 million in part by not filling some vacancies left by staff retiring or leaving the district.

Another $950,000 was saved on textbooks, including not buying new books because growth has stopped and negotiating better rates on social studies books across all grade levels.

About $81,000 in operations and maintenance costs were saved by taking “non-critical” and minor asphalt and playground repairs out of this year’s budget, Prince said.

The district, which had set its utilities budget based on the prior year plus 9 percent contingency, realized it was about $927,000 over budget after being given new rate information from Constellation Energy.

Also, each district school needs to cut its budget by 5 percent.

The projected surplus is likely to help next year’s budget, which should have a deficit based on raises that are due to teachers and support staff.

The district has cut more than $33 million in staff, programs and operational costs since 2009 as it has faced sizable deficits caused by the weak economy and housing markets and costs related to 20 years of explosive growth.

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