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Francis Howell Debates Proposed Deficit Budget

Projections for the 2012-13 school year have the Francis Howell school district operating in the red.

The Francis Howell Board of Education took another step toward approving a budget for the 2012-13 school year.

Following a work session in May to take a deeper look at the numbers, the board had the first reading of the proposed budget during its June 7 meeting. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple prepared the board to operate in the red during the work session, and the proposed budget shows just that.

The General (Incidental) and Special Revenue (Teachers’) Funds budget proposal shows Francis Howell running short $1,914,216. Supple has frequently given budget projections showing that, with a decrease in state funding and property taxes combined with an increase in salaries and other expense, the district would soon be faced with deficit spending.

It was thought that the 2011-12 would be that year, but  enabled the district to operate in the black this year. That won’t be the case this year unless, again, Missouri tosses more funds at the district.

During the budget discussions conversation has frequently turned to the tuition-based programs the district offers such as pre-school and vacation station. In years past, the programs were profitable. Now that is not that case. At Thursday's meeting, Supple's presentation showed the programs running at a a $534,000 deficit , down from an $800,000 projection in May. 

The deficit could, in theory, be eliminated with a simple increase of the tuition, but Supple has cautioned against that plan. If the district jumps too much, enrollment could suffer with people going elsewhere or not going to pre-school of Vacation Station at all.

Board vice president Mark Lafata wanted the deficit cut even further. While he said he supported the program, he wasn't in favor of losing so money. 

"We don’t have to go broke doing it," he said. "... We cant be running that much of a deficit on a tuition-based program." 

Board member Mike Hoehn agreed with Lafata to a point. Hoehn said that, in the future, the district should always strive to make the programs break even. 

Other board members said the money wasn't being wasted. The programs have a proven track record and have helped student perform at a higher level. Board members Amy McEvoy and Eric Seider both said the money would be saved in the long run because the students coming form the pre-schools need fewer interventions. 

"In the long run, the student are the ones succeeding because we do have that in our district," board member Mike Sommer said, echoing his other board members. 

The board will make a final vote on the budget at the June 21 meeting 

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