District fund grown through frugalness

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It’s been the Lincoln County School District’s frugal moves that have grown their fund balance to a whopping $32 million.

But that’s not money that’s just sitting in the bank, said their newly-hired finance director Sam Stewart.

Stewart replaced Cheryl Shelby, who retired last month after 15 years as the head of the district’s finance department.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The district approved Shelby’s proposed $28.7 million budget last month, which included $2 million from the fund balance and no expected tax increases for the residents.

Shelby expects $3.8 million of the revenue to come from ad valorem taxes, which is $3,000 more than in 2016. LCSD officials don’t expect ad valorem taxes to increase because of this change, though millage rates are set by the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors.

Much of the money in the fund balance comes from timber sales and 16th section leases. The district must follow state law on what it can spend, which is usually the interest from the leases.

The fund balance has grown through the years.

“You can’t look at it like it’s money in the bank,” said Stewart. “It’s equity the school district has, it’s the assets minus the debt.”

Stewart credits his predecessor with growing the fund balance.

“Back 15 years ago when Cheryl Shelby took over, this district was broke,” he said. “They had to be very frugal for a very long time. They didn’t know whether the money was going to come to pay the teachers or anything. It’s because she’s been very frugal.”

Shelby could have asked for a 4-percent increase, which would have possibly called for an increase in ad valorem taxes paid by residents to satisfy the school district’s request, but she didn’t.

“You can ask for a 4-percent increase every year, she didn’t ask for any of that,” he said.  “She didn’t ask for any increase, just what the district would normally get from the county. We don’t spend the taxpayers money just to be spending.”

Some revenue in the district will come from tuition by out-of-district students, who each pay $600 a year to attend school within the district. The revenue from tuition amounts to about $57,250, which is equivalent to a teacher’s salary.

About 81 percent of the district’s expenditures are salaries and benefits. Shelby said that there are no cuts to wages or personnel in the budget, and raises for teachers are mandated by the state. About $500,000 will also be spent to purchase four buses and surveillance equipment for the buses.