The Fremont Board of Education passed its 2021-22 budget during a meeting Monday night.
The General Fund budget will decrease by 1.70 percent from $69,660,381 to $68,473,032. The decrease is due primarily spending down Federal Funds that are intended to assist with the COVID-19 response. The adopted budget also includes keeping the property tax levy the same as the previous year.
Three sets of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSERS) funds were awarded and budgeted for in the 2020-21 budget year and can be expensed through September of 2023. It is anticipated that the General Fund budget will continue to decrease until all of the ESSERS funds are expensed.
The FPS general fund budget covers personnel, instruction, transportation and most operating costs. Personnel costs make up 87% of the general fund, while instructional costs comprise 76% of the remainder of the general fund.
A majority of the budget, 51% is funded by property taxes. The second-largest revenue source is state aid, which funds 29% of the budget.
The board has approved the board/district goal related to improving the district’s financial position. An action step within the goal is to maximize resources while creating an expenditure budget which meets the district’s needs, all while being sensitive to the needs of the district’s patrons.
“This goal, established eight years ago, has been a guiding principle since its inception and is again honored in the 2021-22 budget,” said FPS Associate Superintendent Brad Dahl, who detailed the budget Monday night.
The proposed budget incorporates changes due to the negotiated agreement and increases for all employee groups of 3.5%. Almost all other lines within the budget are the same as in the previous year. The exception would be changes due to increases in State and Federal programs with offsetting revenues. The budget reflects the addition of the Cares Act / ESSERS funding related to COVID-19 and corresponding expenditures.
Overall, the district’s total operating budget represents a net decrease of 1.00%. At the same time on the resource side, the district is experiencing a decrease in assessed valuation and State Aid. The decreases in the district’s two primary funding sources required utilization of $2.7 million in cash reserves.
“Dipping into cash reserves isn’t desirable nor something the district should do on a regular basis,” board member Todd Hansen said.
Dahl said officials don’t take lightly to utilizing the cash reserves.
“We have spent the last eight years positioning the district to be able to take this necessary step,” he said. “If the revenue position does not improve next year, we will bring forward other options.”
Dahl said the assessed valuation decrease is due to the exemption of personal property (equipment) by several large employers in the community and the railroad coupled with both dry-land and irrigated farm land seeing a decrease.
FPS boundaries extend into parcels in Saunders and Douglas counties. Dodge and Douglas experienced a decrease of 3.03% and 3.59%, respectively, while Saunders increased 4.19%.
Issues affecting FPS finances include state revenue not keeping pace with increased expenditures.
“Last year we saw a slight increase in our student enrollment which impacts the Needs side of the state aid formula,” Dahl said. “At the same time we saw a fairly large increase in our assessed valuation.”
The district continues to be efficient with its spending. FPS is ranked 11th out of 244 school districts in the state in per-pupil spending. The district spends $11,981 per pupil compared to the state average of $13,558.
“The budget approved tonight accurately reflects the district’s revenues and expenditures and meets the educational needs of the district while honoring the needs of the community,” said Sandi Proskovec, board president. “Budgeting for FPS is a year-long process and one that is taken seriously with intentionality.”