By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
THE HUNTSVILLE Independent School District will have a balanced budget for the 2018-2019 school year and taxpayers will see the tax rate drop from $1.18 per $100 valuation to $1.175. Total revenues will be $70.6 million offset by the same in expenses.
Paul Brown, finance director, told the Board of Trustees that the budget is balanced for the first time in two years. He said the balanced budget and tax rate reduction can be credited in part to voter support for a tax rollback election last year that allowed the district to transfer money from a debt reduction fund to maintenance and operations.
Voters last year gave 70 percent approval to the measure that moved part of money budgeted for the district’s annual debt payments to the “M&O” account which includes operations. That also allowed roughly $750,000 more state money to flow in.
Brown said this year the district will provide $34.4 million of the revenues, the state $32.1 million and the federal government, $4 million.
Brown said the district, in a ranking with 11 other area districts had been next to last with the old $1.18 rate. He said certified property values had increased only slightly over last year and credited the balanced budget and tax rate in part to expense reductions in central administration and other areas.
Following Brown’s presentation in a public hearing the board voted in regular session, unanimously, to adopt the budget and tax rate.
THE NEW BUDGET includes more money for staff development, improved campus coaching, district-wide behavior improvement, research-based school improvement strategies, a 2.5 percent wage increase for employees, increases in salary for the school safety officer and other security measures and a $50 monthly increase per employee in the district contribution to health care.
“We would like to do more for employees,” Brown said in reference to the wage increases, “but we think this is sustainable going forward.” He noted there had been more than a three percent increase last year thanks to voters approving the funds shift.
Trustees praised Brown and his team for presenting a clear, understandable balanced budget and reduced tax rate.
“I am thrilled to be able to have a balanced budget and a tax rate decrease a year after we had serious problems,” Trustee Karin Olson Williams said.
Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 936-293-0293.