UD-3 caps year with budget surplus

MIDDLEBURY — Having become so used to paring school budgets in recent years, UD-3 school board members got some unexpectedly good financial news last week with word that the district had ended fiscal year 2009 in the black to the tune of $512,189.
The Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) Superintendent Lee Sease said the fund balance can be traced to two sources.
First, expenditures from the UD-3 budget (which covers Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury Union Middle School) ended up being $223,711 less than anticipated. Sease explained that MUHS and MUMS administrators joined forces in their fiscal year 2009 budget planning, with the high school taking particular pains to pare back in order to backfill what had been anticipated to be a substantial shortfall in the middle school spending plan.
It was a $15.5 million budget that reflected elimination of the living arts program ($88,000) at MUMS, along with reduced summer custodial hours ($4,200); decreased summer curriculum work ($5,000); a reduced furniture budget (by $2,000); and a $5,000 cut in computer-related spending.
“The deficit at the middle school was not as severe as we thought,” Sease said of how the ledger read at the end of the year. “As it turned out, the high school over-compensated.”
The second “windfall” that helped created the fund balance was what Sease called “the unanticipated revenue” of $280,535 in state aid for an elevator project completed at MUHS during the prior year. Given the state’s current economic woes, Sease said the district never expected the elevator project aid to come in as quickly as it did.
“You never know when (state aid for construction) is going to come,” Sease said. “It could have been three years.”
District officials stressed that the $512,189 fund balance can’t be spent by the district without taxpayers’ permission.
“The money is sitting there right now and it belongs to the taxpayers,” Sease said.
That means, according to Sease, the money will be used to reduce school taxes in an upcoming budget year, unless:
• District voters opt to set the money aside in a special reserve fund that they could choose to tap for future education purposes.
• District officials recommend spending some or all of the money on specific projects that would have to be endorsed by voters.

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