Avondale to Revise Deficit Plan

The Avondale Board of Education has approved a budget for the 2011-12 school year that meets the terms of a state-approved deficit elimination plan.

The board approved  the new budget Monday after reaching concession agreements with employee groups, including wage reductions of 1-2 percent plus increases in health-care contributions to at least 20 percent. Superintendent George Heitsch agreed to roll his salary back 3 percent, in addition to the 20-percent health-care contribution.

The combined savings through concessions for the new school year add up to nearly $2 million. That and program changes mean the district expects to reduce its operating deficit from $2.179 million to $1.785 million over the next year.

It’s good news. But for the following two school years, the picture is less rosy. The  deficit elimination plan had called for the district to be out of a deficit by June 2014. Current projections show that is unlikely to happen.

“They look at it all the way until we’re out of deficit,” said Frank Lams, Avondale’s Chief Financial Officer. “I’m giving it my best projections with existing data.”

Lams said he has no idea what the financial picture will look like two years out, given the state’s shaky financial picture and cut in per-pupil aid this year. Even so, he has no choice but to rework the plan, because state-aid payments can be withheld if an approved deficit-elimination plan is not in place.

“I’m very confident in the numbers we put together for next year,” Lams said. “But after next year, all of our contracts expire. … So there’s one or two wild cards there.”

For 2011-12, the district expects to spend $36.879 million in its general fund. That’s down from $38.589 million from 2010-11.

In addition to approving the budget for the coming year,  on Monday the board of education approved borrowing against future state-aid payments for cash-flow purposes. Lam said the district borrowed $4.3 million in the 2010-11 school year. He asked for permission to borrow up to $4 million for 2011-12, but expects to need $3.6 million.

By Annette Kingsbury

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