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Medina schools working toward financial stability

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Interim Superintendent Dr. Jack Cockrill told the Medina ISD Board of Trustees that things are on track to meet the goal of having the district working under a balanced budget for the 2014-15 term. Cockrill addressed the board during their regular monthly meeting held Monday, Jan. 13.
Cockrill was hired by the board in December following the resignation of Ross Hord and the revelation that the district owed the state a substantial amount of money. Some board members, and members of the concerned community feared the possible financial collapse of the district, forcing a closing of the school.
However, Cockrill reassured the board Monday evening, reporting that a lot of people had been working hard and long hours and solutions were being found.
"We still have some hard decisions ahead of us," he said after the meeting, "but we're going to make it."
Financial consultant Bill Orr presented a report to the board that Cockrill said was meant to "help us understand what's happening to us financially."
Orr demonstrated the district's main financial problem: falling average daily attendance rates matched to increasing property values. Those combine to lead to a drop in state funding that has hit the district hard in the last two to three years.
"In 2008, the state sent the district over $2 million," said Orr. "In 2014, they were supposed to send $600 thousand, but because the district had been overpaid for a few years, no funding will be coming."
Cockrill added, "We're still searching those numbers to be sure we're getting every dollar we qualify for."
Cockrill and Orr have already identified an entitlement to more federal funds than expected, with over $40 thousand located. Also, at some point in the past MISD was receiving more in federal funds for some Special Ed programs than they could use legally and opted to stop taking the funding. Federal funding will once again be accepted.
They also discovered that the state had recorded more revenue than the district actually earned for the last two years.
Other savings include an expectation of some positive adjustments to expected tax revenues from the Central Appraisal District; an increase in qualified applicants for free and reduced lunches, which benefits the food service budget as well as comp ed funding; and the loss of one employee.
"If we continue on the budget you have, I project you'll have a $250 thousand fund balance in next year's budget," Cockrill said.
Orr has worked on improving the district's bookkeeping and reporting formats to help the board keep better track of where the money is coming from and where it is going.
"The monthly report will be broken down into smaller sections to keep track of expenditures more easily and help manage your reserves," said Orr.
Any expenditures over $10,000 will be reported to the board in the future, and the district will begin posting its check register on its website.
To conclude the meeting, Cockrill made eight suggestions to the board for consideration for budget planning.
"1. A hiring freeze for all positions if we can meet the requirements with current staff.
2. Consider expanding the current Pre-K to a 3- and 4-year-old program. This may include a partnership with other organizations in Medina ISD.
3. Review all utility settings for energy efficiency; all empty rooms turned off or set at 60 to prevent freezing; lower settings during the evening hours and keeping comfortable during school hours.
4. Turn off all lights and other energy consuming equipment when leaving a room or other space.
5. Recruit students that live in or near Medina ISD to consider enrolling in our district. This would include home schooled students and others living in areas close to Medina.
6. Re-evaluate all free and reduced price lunch applications for accuracy and qualification.
7. Review each individual Special Education and ESL student for funding considerations.
8. Utilize available staff to fill all substituting responsibilities unless it is an emergency."
Medina ISD residents are welcome to attend all board meetings to keep up with the changes being made to put the district back on a strong financial footing. The board meets the second Monday of each month in the Administration Building at 7 pm. The agendas and minutes are posted on the district's website.
In other business, the board accepted the thanks of the district for their service with a chili and cornbread supper, marking School Board Appreciation Month.
They were also introduced to a large number of UIL academic competition winners from Medina Elementary School.