Germantown paying for roof, asphalt projects with fund balance

Kennedy Middle to get new roof, paving in summer

April 16, 2013

Germantown - Reserve money will be used to fund a pressing list of capital improvements in the Germantown School District, following a decision last week.

After several months of discussion, the School Board voted to take $330,000 out of the district's fund balance to fund roof and asphalt work this summer. The majority - $265,000 - has been earmarked for the roofing. The balance of $65,000 will go toward asphalt repairs.

Kennedy Middle School has been cited as the school in the most need of attention. This summer, roof and asphalt work will take place there. County Line Elementary School will also be the recipient of new asphalt.

Separately, the School Board's Building and Finance committees discussed the planned improvements at meetings in February and March. With money not readily available in other funds in the general budget, committee members opted to forward the issue on to the full board for deliberation and action.

"Given the short time table to schedule these projects and get the best pricing, it would be my suggestion that the School Board approve using the unassigned fund balance and wait for the 2013-14 budget to be solidified before considering other options," said Ric Ericksen, director of business and auxiliary services.

During recent deliberations at the committee level, a number of scenarios were tossed out, including taking out between $1 and $3 million in debt to cover the cost of the improvements, shifting around other items within the budget to fund the work and going to referendum to exceed limits under the property tax levy cap.

The district's objective, under board policy, is to have at least 12 percent of the district's general operating budget placed within the fund balance. Ericksen said the scenario would not be jeopardized with the board's decision in play.

"It is my feeling that the fund balance can easily absorb this capital investment without adversely affecting cash management," Ericksen said.

Board members agreed with Ericksen, citing a need to tackle preventive maintenance before a minor problem grows and potentially costs the district more money in the long run.

"I know that these are not frivolous projects. They are a high priority," board member Lester Spies said. "The flip side is the cost of not doing them."

While funding the pressing list of projects has been solidified, the district's longer-range capital improvement plan is somewhat murky. Administrators said they are awaiting further details from the state as the biennium budget is being pieced together.

Using one or more of the other three options could be a means to addressing future facility issues. School Board President Robert Soderberg said he would like to see a facility study and an analysis of what it would cost to take out new debt.

"Buying (borrowing) money right now is relatively cheap," Soderberg said, alluding to the historically low interest rates.

Administrators are anticipating a budgetary shortfall in 2013-14, based on year-to-year comparisons. In a growing district like Germantown, declining income is a concept not as familiar in districts within landlocked communities.

"In the immediate future, we're closely watching those state numbers," Superintendent Sue Borden said. "(They) will help determine our deficit."

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