Stillwater News Press

Columns

January 31, 2010

Ann Caine: On money, stadium suites and snow

STILLWATER, Okla. — I’d like to devote this article to three major topics from this past month.

Finances

Stillwater Public Schools has now received its much anticipated mid-year funding notice for

the state aid funding formula. In the state of Oklahoma, public school districts wait until December to find out how much state funding they will receive.

Schools receive monthly payments of state aid from August through December based on an

initial tentative allocation received in July.

Then, monthly payments for January through June are adjusted accordingly so that the total

amount received for the year corresponds to the amount reflected on the mid-year allocation.

This year, school finances have been further complicated by state revenue shortfalls.

Schools have not received a full monthly payment from the state for any month yet this school

year. Due to these monthly shortfalls, the mid-year allocation notice includes a 5 percent

cut in funding for all Oklahoma schools. This 5 percent

statewide cut has cost Stillwater Public Schools $815,000 in state funding this school year.

We are very appreciative of the work our legislators have done to shore up education

funding this past week so that now we will only realize a 4 percent cut this fiscal year.

Currently, Stillwater is set to receive $13,563,413 in state aid this year. The funding formula is

based on student numbers plus additional weights for various student categories.

This weighted student count for Stillwater grew by 4.4 percent this year. However, in spite

of this student growth, overall state aid actually decreased by $433,000 from last year’s

amount due to state revenue shortfalls.

With this student growth, Stillwater’s state aid funding would have been $14,378,442 if

state revenues had reached the levels anticipated last spring by the legislators.

So, Stillwater is forced to absorb the costs associated with these additional students while

at the same time realizing a funding cut from the state. Fortunately, our school board

anticipated the funding crisis and they began this year with the largest fund balance in recent

history (10.09 percent), which had been built up over the last two school years.

The fund balance allows the district to face these cuts without taking drastic measures this

school year. It also allows us to meet our monthly obligations without borrowing money.

Our fund balance in December had dropped from $4.4 million on July 1 to $300,000! Of

course, the fund balance will be replenished this semester as property tax revenue and federal

program claims begin to arrive.

At this point, it is anticipated that the district will finish the year with a fund balance of approximately 7 percent that will help carry us through another expected tough year in 2010-11.

The district is currently formulating a budget reduction plan for next school year in anticipation

of continued funding shortfalls.

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