Swedeborg seeking ways to cut costs, considers asking voters to OK tax levy
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
SWEDEBORG, Mo. (July 13, 2009) — Financial issues headlined Swedeborg’s Monday night school board meeting, as District Administrator Joe Dunlap reported on his efforts to balance the district’s budget.
“I’ve worked on this quite extensively over the last three weeks,” Dunlap said. “To kind of take you to the meat of the issue on the last page, we went from the preliminary budget of $18,000 in the red to this preliminary conservative budget of $11,305 in the black.”
Dunlap said he’s worked closely with current Richland R-IV Superintendent Joe Ridgeway, former Richland Superintendent Terry Wolfe, and Laquey R-V Superintendent Bob Boulware, who for many years was Swedeborg’s district administrator.
“Is that through reduction in expenses or higher than anticipated revenues? How’d we get that?” asked board member Chris Black.
Dunlap said the budget balancing is mostly through cutting expenses.
“The revenues are extremely conservative,” Dunlap said. “What I’ve been trying to do is come up with a budget with numbers that we can rely on, that if they’re low, we can fix it, if they’re high we can take it out of someplace else.”
Board member Wayne King asked whether revenues might be increased through grants.
“My basic philosophy on budgeting as far as grants is concerned that we don’t have it until we have it,” Dunlap said. “It’s not time to sit back and kick our feet up, but it’s better than it was … If we look at possibly going to the voters with something, it shows we are not up against the wall.”
Board member Alexis Roam said she appreciated Dunlap’s contacts with Ridgeway, Wolfe and Boulware.
“I appreciate your effort on this. I know you’ve taken a significant amount of time,” Roam said. “I appreciate you reaching out and partnering with experts in school finance. That’s critical.”
“That’s the only way I know how to do it. There are so many resources out there that will partner with you and help you, and it’s free, so why not take advantage of them?” Dunlap said.
While Dunlap said he’s been able to cut Swedeborg’s bills, Board President Jaime Alexander cautioned that the district may need to obtain a tax revenue anticipation note to pay its bills and said he has personally contacted the Bank of Crocker which offered a “very equitable” rate.
“Bob Boulware’s statement to me is having a line of credit is a very good idea, but he said he hopes we won’t need it,” Dunlap said.
King and several other board members agreed that it’s good to have a backup plan to pay the bills, but not all board members agreed.
“That’s something that can be drawn up on just a half-day’s notice,” Black said. “I would sure like not to have to use one.”
“Can’t we wait until we see if we need it?” Roam asked.
Probably not, Alexander said.
“This is not something they do in house; they will have to have a lawyer do it. It’s not just going to be a two or three day turnaround,” Alexander said. “I’m not opposed to waiting, but being proactive rather than reactive in this case … We don’t want to draw on it unless it is absolutely necessary. But working for a bank myself, I know how it is when people say there are checks they need to have covered and they need to work on this now. It is definitely not a reputation-building item.”
While a tax anticipation revenue note may be a temporary solution, Dunlap said that long-term plans for Swedeborg probably have to include increasing the district’s property tax levy.
“At some point this year, we’re going to have to look at doing a levy, even though we just tried one and it failed. There are a lot of reasons for that,” Dunlap said. “This is kind of an extraordinary measure to get us from where we are at, to where our revenues need to be.”
Other revenue-generating and cost-cutting activities in Swedeborg include selling an old leased bus for a profit of $28,000, and Dunlap said efforts are being made to look at buying larger buses to possibly allow a single bus route to cut costs.
“Have we done a cost analysis of one route versus two routes?” Roam asked.
Dunlop said a single route would save the cost of pay and benefits for one driver, about $9,000 per year.