Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan’s presentation of the five-year forecast at the Oct. 24 school board meeting was packed with good news for Lakota’s long-term financial stability.
A balanced budget since 2013, paired with a growing list of cost containment practices, has supported a rising cash balance that has grown from less than 60 days in 2013 to more than 160 days in 2016. That means, even with deficit spending predicted in 2020, the district’s cash balance could potentially sustain the district through 2026.
“The conversation is no longer about cutting student programs and services to keep our head above water,” Logan said. “It’s about responsible spending and planning even beyond the next five years to stretch taxpayer dollars.
“It’s about how to save in our daily operational costs so we can to redirect some of those dollars into the programs that will maximize student opportunities, while also keeping us off the ballot as long as possible,” she continued.
Since the last forecast in May 2016, even the predicted spending deficit for 2020 has shrunk from $3.1 million to $900,000. If local and state tax revenues remain fairly stable over the next several years, as predicted, that trend can be attributed to the long-term impact of the district’s cost containment efforts.
Those practices are marked by such efforts as regular debt refinancing, which has saved Lakota over $6 million in debt repayments, and substantial energy usage efficiencies. A new approach to employee healthcare benefits has stabilized those costs. Even a recently negotiated teacher contract has ensured long-term cost savings and contributed to collective staff wages that are predicted to be $93.5 in 2021, as compared to $96 million in 2010.
“The forecast is just a snapshot in time and always assumes lots of different variables,” said Acting Superintendent Robb Vogelmann. “But even where some revenues may be unpredictable, our commitment to responsible spending and saving will never waver, and that will take us a long way.”