The Pattonville Board of Education on June 14 approved a $105 million operating budget for the 2022-2023 school year. The district will likely have a net deficit of about $1.6 million, which is common in non-reassessment years. However, the deficit is largely due to lower commercial property assessments during the last county wide property assessment.
The 2022-2023 budget was established based on several factors:
- Small increase expected in existing property values - Pattonville's revenues are based on the assessed value of property in the district as set by the St. Louis County assessor's office. Property values are assessed every two years, with 2022-2023 being a non-reassessment year, though property taxes are expected to increase by 2.5% and create $1.8 million in additional revenue. The increase is due to new construction within the district, and a rise in delinquent tax collections from prior years. Commercial tax appeals continue to be a financial challenge for the district. During the 2021-2022 school year, revenues decreased $1.6 million dollars due to successful commercial property protests, which was the highest amount of refunds seen since the pandemic began in 2020. During the pandemic, very few tax protest decisions were made by the State Tax Commission (STC), and last year appears to be a return to more typical determinations by the STC. The 2022-2023 budget assumes similar levels of tax protests as the prior year.
- State revenues - Local revenue sources account for 84%, or $93 million, of the district’s total revenue budget. Only 10% of the district’s budget comes from state funding. Next year’s budget represents a revenue increase of 10.5%, or $1,056,680,000, at the state level. Total state revenue is estimated to be $11.1 million in 2022-2023, most coming from the Foundation Formula, the state’s formula for allocating education funds. Under this formula, Pattonville continues to be a “hold harmless” district, receiving $5.1 million per year or approximately $828 per student. The hold harmless designation means Pattonville received a higher level of funding under an older state formula than the current formula provides. As a result, Pattonville is held to the same level of funding it received in 1992. Pattonville receives the 511th lowest level of funding from the state out of 520 districts. The remainder of state revenue includes transportation, which is fully funded for the first time since 1991, and early childhood special education, which is reimbursed at 100% of the district’s allowable costs.
- Federal funding relief for student services - Pattonville’s budget includes $2.4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) fund, enacted on March 11, 2021. The total amount of ARP ESSER funds available is estimated to be $7.1 million. Of that, $2.4 million was utilized in 2021-2022. To date, 86% of ESSER funds have been spent on expenses related to learning loss. Additional funds have been devoted to iPad replacement at the elementary and middle school levels, device replacement for certified staff, middle school English and math support and adding positions to support instruction and learning loss.
- Three-year agreement with staff - Pattonville is in its first year of a three-year agreement in which teachers and support staff receive an overall 3.7% increase in salary and benefits each year. However, the actual cost to the district is lower due to staff retirements and resignations, many of them due to a separation incentive plan (SIP) offered in the 2021-2022 school year. Those accepting the incentive are being replaced by staff with fewer years of experience and lower salaries.
- Small decrease in health costs - The allowance for employee health and dental insurance has only increased four times in the last nine years, but is estimated to increase by 2 to 3% in 2022-2023.
- Food service funding - Funding for food service is expected to decrease $197,000 overall from the 2021-2022 school year. During the pandemic, all meals were fully reimbursed by the federal government. The reimbursement was higher than the cost the district has charged families in the past, which allowed the district to offset deficits experienced during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. However, the federal reimbursement program expires at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. The estimates for 2022-2023 are based on a return to normal participation and reimbursement levels. Lunch prices for 2022-2023 will be $2.75 at elementary and $2.90 at middle and high school.
- State funding of transportation - Based on state statute, the state is expected to reimburse districts for 75% of their eligible transportation costs. During the 2022-2023 school year, and for the first time since 1991, the state is expected to fully pay its portion of transportation costs. This will result in approximately $925,000 in revenue for Pattonville that has been used to fund transportation in the past.
- Rising fuel costs - The budget for transportation fuel increased by $75,000 due to rising prices, which puts costs similar to those in the 2012-2013 school year. However, the district has made improvements in previous years to help offset the rising fuel cost. First, the district purchased four buses that run on compressed natural gas. The fueling station is within district boundaries, which lowers the cost of fueling. Second, the district has recently replaced about half of its bus fleet, so the average age is about three years, making them more efficient. Additionally, those buses run on unleaded gas, instead of diesel, which is more cost effective.
- Capital spending on high-priority needs - The new budget includes the purchase of four and lease of 20 new school buses, replacing teacher devices, elementary and middle school iPads and high school laptops and other technology purchases and miscellaneous maintenance and repairs around the district.
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