The Moniteau County R-1 School District, following a budget workshop at the end of June, found itself with a surplus budget exiting the 2020-2021 academic year.
Combining revenues from local, county, state, federal and tuition sources, the budget for the 2020-2021 school year came in at a little more than $14 million. However, the total money received by the district to date was $16,489,649. Superintendent Dwight Sanders said he and his team overestimate expenditures and underestimate revenues as a strategy to be financially conservative with a year's budget.
Sanders said the positive figures comparing revenues to expenditures are in large part due to the federal funds California schools have received during the COVID-19 pandemic. Receiving relief from programs such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and ESSER offset some of the district's additional expenses, Sanders said.
Sanders said many items — such as masks, disinfectant and other PPE items — were new expenses purchased throughout the year. These expenses incurred due to pandemic proved to be helpful, he said, as they assisted the school district in halting the spread of COVID-19 among the district's population.
"There were a variety of things that we purchased that we wouldn't normally have, given the circumstances," Sanders said. "We also expanded our availability of technology in case we had to go virtual. We want to make sure that we (had) a device for all 1,400 students in the district. So there were a lot of things that we purchased that were out of our normal scope, and at work within last year's budget. But even in spite of that, we still came in under budget."
Sanders said the district generally does not expend all of the resources outlined in each budget. While it is not uncommon for the district's budget to be under expenditures, the amount the district was over on revenue was, he said, "unique" to the past year given the pandemic.
An additional factor in the district's spending from the past year that differs from the norm is the ongoing bond issue projects. Sanders said the bond issue funds are reflected as separate money from the budget. The $10.75 million campaign was approved by voters in 2020, and the school district still has $700,000 left over after accounting for a host of completed and ongoing projects.
From adding carpeting to creating new structures to contributing to the district's sports programs, there are a good number of projects outside of those accounted for with bond issue funds the budget can be used for, Sanders said. However, he said being practical with the budget is what is most important.
"We want the project to be one that meets our needs, so we've tweaked some things," Sanders said. "We were going to have a graphic on one of the walls in the new edition planned, a couple of graphics that were pretty expansive and it was going to be $60,000. California is a blue collar community and we're not frivolous with money. We just said that we want to pull that out. That was a little more fancy than what we needed and that was a way that we were able to save money."
Sanders said he wants taxpayers to know remaining fiscally sound is a responsibility the district takes very seriously. When purchasing anything for its schools, he said the district solicits bids to make sure it's getting the lowest cost for a quality good.
"It looks a little bit better for next year as far as knowing what's coming, but we're constantly monitoring the finances of the district, making sure that we make sound financial decisions that protect the investment of our taxpayers," Sanders said. "We're stewards of other folks' money, so that requires us to make sure that we evaluate every expenditure and that we're utilizing those tax dollars wisely."