Budget balanced, books closed
Bethel closes the books on the 2018/2019 school year
Bethel’s Business Office just finished closing the books on the 2018/19 school year.
Growth in the district has been a frequent topic of discussion, especially since we grew 1,000 students in 2015 — a number that doesn’t even include all students.
The graph above, which was part of Chief Financial Officer Billy Wessell’s year-end presentation to the school board, shows growth in the district when it comes to Full Time Enrollment (FTE). FTE doesn’t count students we serve aged 0–3 in our early learning programs, nor does it count any special programs not counted for funding. When you include those students, the number is called “headcount.”
From October 2018 to October 2019 our district grew 473 students by headcount.
During his presentation, Wessell made note of a few items, including the first round of bond sales reflected in the Capital Projects Fund. That money will go directly to funding the bond projects approved by voters this February.
No frills: Bethel budget puts money in the classroom
Bethel’s 2019/20 budget continues to demonstrate our commitment to educational excellence for all students.
A total of 96% (74.1% directly and 21.9% indirectly) of our annual budget supports our classrooms.
The district’s General Fund Budget of $316.8 million covers the school district’s annual operating costs. It provides support to approximately 20,000 students, which are served by more than 2,200 staff.
To read more, click here.
75 new full-time positions for Bethel
Bethel’s 2019/20 budget includes more funding for more staff — specifically, 67.4 certificated Full Time Equivalency (FTE) positions and 7.745 classified FTE positions. If you break those numbers down, you’ll find 53.8 FTE Basic Education Teachers, 6.6 FTE Special Education Teachers, and 2.0 FTE Maintenance Personnel, among others.
The growing staff in Bethel reflects the growing population in our community. Bethel was already the 8th largest public employer in Pierce County, with more people on staff than the Post Office. With these new additions, the district could climb even closer to the top of that list.
According to demographers, there’s no end in sight for growth in our area. Forecasters are predicting there will be 400 new housing units per year in the district for the next 20 years. That means the number of staff will continue to grow alongside the incoming number of new students.
Click here to read more.
“Extreme couponing” in Bethel
Imagine you have to feed 10,000 hungry kids for an entire school year on a limited budget. You’d have to start by maximizing your groceries while minimizing your costs — which is exactly what Child Nutrition Director Leeda Beha does.
“It’s like extreme couponing” she said.
Extreme couponing was popularized by a TV show of the same name. It encourages the use of stackable coupons, digital deals, mail-in rebates, and buying in bulk to make every dollar stretch as far as it can go.
For school districts, the USDA provides an annual amount of money called “entitlement.” Entitlement is based on the previous year’s number of lunches served. Last year the entitlement amount for Bethel was $595,612.
Just like a coupon, if you don’t spend your entitlement, you are wasting money.
“We use the USDA foods as the base of our menu,” Beha said.
Read more here.
Budget Status – June 2019
You can see the Budget Status Reports for all funds as of June 30 by clicking here.
The following is a summary of each fund:
Revenues totaled $229,079,233 (82.88% of budget) and expenditures were $217,216,682 (76% of budget) resulting in an ending fund balance of $77,036,362. Transfers of $3,313,256 were made to the Capital Projects Fund authorized by Resolutions 07 (18-19), 14, 23 and 24 (17-18). The annual average FTE enrollment through June increased 338.46 from budgeted FTE. The first sale of the 2019 bonds (par amount of $124,330,000) will be included in the July reports.
Capital Projects Fund
Expenditures through June were $10,624,721 and revenue received was $10,016,130. The ending fund balance of $10,442,500 included $5,031,700 in property tax collections and transfers to the General Fund of $517,664.
Debt Service Fund
Bond principal and interest of $8,141,501 was paid June 1, 2019 leaving an ending fund balance of $2,906,187.
Associated Student Body (ASB) Fund
Expenditures totaled $1,563,945 and revenue received was $1,412,850 resulting in an ending fund balance of $1,620,862.
Transportation Vehicle Fund
Expenditures for buses through June 30, 2019 totaled $1,010,497. The ending fund balance of $985,301 will be used to pay for six propane buses currently on order at an estimated cost of $800,028.
State Budget Changes
The 2019 legislative session did some good things for our district, although we were hoping for more in some areas.
The big news was that the legislature raised the levy limit from $1.50 per thousand dollars of assessed value (or $1,500 per student – whichever is less) to $2.50 per thousand dollars of assessed value (or $2,500 per student – whichever is less).
Bethel falls into the $2.50 category, which we can’t fully collect on until our next levy election in 2021. A supplemental levy election before then to raise the limit is another option, but not one being considered right now.
That extra dollar of levy funding will eventually increase our revenue and help better support the programs we already have.
Even with this increase from the state, the projected education-related tax rate in Bethel will still be lower than the 2018 rate.
Bethel received more money ($6.97 million) than any other district (with the exception of Tacoma) from the state's Hold Harmless fund. This is good news, as we still have no regionalization factor like our surrounding districts.
Bethel was also selected as an underfunded, yet strong Key Performance Indicator district, which resulted in an extra million dollars in grant money for our Transportation Department.
Bethel recently sold $150 million worth of bonds at $1.42 per thousand dollars of assessed value. Keeping our promise to taxpayers, this is the same rate that was shown in the voter’s pamphlet.
We were planning for the possibility of higher interest rates (4.95%) during the sale, but the true interest cost at the time of sale was 2.94% This saved us $35 million in interest. This is the first set of bonds to be sold to fund the projects outlined in our voter-approved School Construction Bond.
We are anticipating selling the next set in 2021.
State Audit Results
Our latest financial audit from the state concluded with no findings and only minimal recommendations for improvement. This means Bethel now has a decade-long string of clean audits dating back to 2009.
The auditors specifically thanked our own Wendy Howard and Gretchen Russo for their assistance during the auditing process.
Superintendent Tom Seigel was pleased with the report and said the district was committed to being fiscally responsible. “Anytime you find something wrong we want to know about it, so we can fix it,” he told the auditors.
2018-19 Transportation Vehicle Fund Budget ExtensionAt the May 14 School Board meeting a public hearing was held to authorize a budget extension to purchase additional buses that were not anticipated in our original budget.These buses will eventually be funded through a grant that is giving the district nine new propane-fueled school buses. These new buses will be equipped with engines that are 90% cleaner than the Environmental Protection Agency’s current heavy-duty engine standard.Because the grant money will come in at a later date, and because we want to have as many buses ready for our growing number of students this fall, the extension was required.