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FAYETTEVILLE -- School District spending would increase less than half a percent for the 2016-17, under a budget School Board members will take up for a vote Thursday.

School Board members heard a detailed presentation on the proposed 2016-17 budget during a workshop Tuesday. Kathy Hanlon, the district's chief financial officer, will ask the board to approve the budget at Thursday night's monthly board meeting.

By the numbers

Facts and figures for Fayetteville School District

*$55,878: Average classroom teacher’s salary

*$58,276: Average salary for all certified staff, including administrators

*Taxable value of all property in Fayetteville School District: $1,492,624,396

*Millage: 45.65, with a mill equal to one-tenth of a penny

*Amount each mill raises in property tax revenue for the school district: $1,492,624

Source: Fayetteville School District

"We spend most of our money just educating kids," Hanlon said.

Each year, about 75 percent of the district's budget goes to salaries and benefits for the district's more than 1,400 employees, Hanlon said. Another 14 percent goes toward payments on debt.

The budget totals $100.74 million, compared with the $100.31 spent during the 2015-16 school year, according to documents the board reviewed Thursday. This is an increase of 0.43 percent over the past year.

Hanlon built the 2016-17 budget around projected revenue of $100.16 million, compared with $102.14 million in revenue in 2015-16.

"We had a really good year this year," Hanlon said of the 2015-16 budget year.

A mild winter led to lower utility costs, she said. Fuel costs for buses was down. The district added 125 students, which generated $780,000 in student growth money from the state. Property tax collection was at 101 percent of what was budgeted, though the overage was a result of payments on delinquent taxes, she said.

The district began the 2016-17 budget year July 1 with a balance of $13.8 million, up from $12.6 million the previous year, Hanlon said.

She told School Board members she would like to work toward an annual balance of closer to $16 million, but Superintendent Matthew Wendt said getting there will take time and he first wants to work with the School Board to set financial goals for the district.

He plans to spend the next several months attending faculty meetings and talking with employees. A key question will be whether they have the tools and resources to do the job the district has asked of them.

The information gathered will help Wendt and his administrative team with developing plans for the district's goals with staffing, maintenance, transportation and curriculum.

"We have to create a plan so you know your budget is funding the priorities of the board," Wendt said.

Fayetteville School District each year has seen slow and steady student growth, so School Board President Tim Hudson looks for consistency in the district's budget.

The number of students in a school district is a key factor in how districts are paid by the state, though the state money districts based on their 2015-16 average student membership taken in the third quarter of the school year, instead of on their official enrollment, which is counted in October.

While the city is larger than Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale, the School District is the smallest of the four, Hudson said. This creates differences in their budgets. The district sizes differ because school boundaries don't follow city boundaries and because of demographic differences.

Fayetteville School District for the 2015-16 school year will receive $6,646 in state foundation money for the 9,534 students counted in its third quarter average of student membership, Hanlon said. This amounts to $63.3 million, with $26.8 million coming from the state and $36.5 million coming from local property tax revenue.

The district also receives local property tax revenue for outside of what it receives in foundation money. This will amount to an additional $30.97 million.

School Board member Susan Heil thought Hanlon presented a solid budget for the school year. She appreciates Hanlon taking a conservative approach to budgeting, she said.

Several years ago, Heil would hear concerns about the money the district sets aside in reserve, wanting for that money to be spent on increasing salaries. School districts take different approaches to having reserve, but Heil thinks having a healthy reserve offers protection for employees, she said.

NW News on 08/24/2016

Print Headline: Fayetteville board prepares to adopt budget

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